Trump’s labor secretary pick will hurt ordinary workers fighting for $15-an-hour pay

Fight for $15
Fight for $15
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Unions have been on life-support since President Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controller’s union in 1981; their membership numbers have plummeted over the last 50 years. President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of Andy Puzder, the CEO of the parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast food chains, as the next US labor secretary will likely further degrade their power and initiatives.

Kendall Fells, organizing director for the Fight for 15, told the Prospect earlier this week that “Puzder as labor secretary is like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the treasury.” Puzder has been an outspoken opponent of many changes backed by unions:

He abhors organized labor’s biggest campaign, “the fight for $15.” He has written in the Wall Street Journal that “broad increases in the minimum wage destroy jobs and hurt the working-class Americans that they are supposed to help” and has warned against raising the federal minimum wage higher than $9 per hour. “Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?” he once reasoned in an interview.

He blamed the union-backed group “Making Change at Wal-Mart,” which had campaigned for the store to raise its entry-level wages, for store closures. In the same Wall Street Journal op-ed, Putzer wrote that “many of the job losses [at Wal-Mart] are the direct result, to borrow the outfit’s branding, of making change at Wal-Mart.”

He has said that minimum wage increases make automated restaurants more viable, and could cut down on the number of employees. “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” he said of robots.

He has criticized the Obama Administration’s new overtime rule, which raised the threshold below which salaried managers automatically qualify for overtime pay from those who make $23,660 per year to those who make less than $47,500 per year. In a Forbes op-ed, Puzder said that the rule “will cause some employers to reclassify salaried employees as hourly.” The rule is expected to be reversed. 

It’s not surprising that Trump’s pick for labor secretary isn’t a champion of organized labor. Other rumored candidates included Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who eroded the power of Wisconsin unions by pushing for a ”right to work” law . On Wednesday evening, Trump attacked the president of United Steelworkers 1999, the union that represents workers at the Carrier factory where Trump pledged to save jobs, after the union president said Trump had misrepresented the number of workers saved by his deal.