Jobs With Justice • Joel Mendelson
As Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder prepares for his confirmation hearing, it’s a given that he’ll have to answer questions about his views on minimum wage. To curry support from senators of both parties, he may state that he backs increasing the minimum wage. But no matter what Puzder says, his record makes it clear that he has no plans to endorse any significant increase, leaving millions of working people struggling to make ends meet.
Case in point: In 2006, Puzder contributed $10,000 to defeat a ballot measure in Nevada that aimed to raise the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour. Puzder was so determined to block Nevadans from receiving a small bump in their pay that he contributed nearly two-thirds of what a full-time, minimum wage earner gets in a year, just to kill the measure.
It’s hardly credible for Puzder to claim support for a decent minimum wage when he’s underpaid the people who work for him. A sizable number of Hardees and Carl’s Jr. restaurants were accused of wage theft under his tenure as CEO of CKE Restaurants and some of Puzder’s employees made a subminimum wage. The Labor Department—the same agency Trump has tapped Puzder to run — found those restaurants guilty of stealing employee wages in 60 percent of their investigations.
In recent years, Puzder has acknowledged the call for a higher minimum wage – but with a caveat that entry-level employees must start at a lower wage and increases should vary, depending on their location. Even then, he does not support increasing the minimum wage beyond $9 per hour. Puzder is quick to perpetuate the myth that higher wages result in fewer jobs.
Throughout the U.S., the cost of living is way too high for those who earn less than $15 per hour, let alone $9 per hour. A majority of people earning less than $12.16 per hour must rely on public assistance to make ends meet. And taxpayers foot the bill when jobs don’t pay enough. According to an estimate by the National Employment Law Project, the working people at Puzder’s CKE Restaurants collect $247 million a year annually “from taxpayer-funded safety-net programs.”