Labor Secretary Appointment Indicates New Direction

By Paula Bernier

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on the brink of a major milestone: hitting the 20,000 mark. The economy grew at a rate of 3.2 percent in the third quarter, the fastest pace in two years. And the unemployment problem continues to improve, as approximately 178,000 jobs were created in November, and the national unemployment rate declined to 4.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clearly, things have improved markedly in the U.S. since the country plunged into the Great Recession in December of 2007.

But many folks have nonetheless been unhappy with the pace of change and direction in which the country is headed, which is why, at least in part, Donald Trump was able to drum up enough support to get elected. As most everyone in this country is probably aware, President-elect Trump has spent much of the past few weeks reviewing cabinet candidates and announcing his choices for these key positions.

Andrew F. Puzder is one of his recent selections, having been named Secretary of Labor. The 66-year-old is the CEO of CKE Restaurant, the parent company of such fast food businesses as Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. He is also a former trial lawyer. And he co-authored a book called Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It.

Puzder has a history of being outspoken about his views related to work issues, so we already have a pretty good idea on where he might come out on various things.

For example, as the New York Times recently reported, Puzder has criticized the Obama administration’s effort to expand eligibility for overtime pay, saying it will hurt small businesses, diminish worker opportunity, and result in job loss. He is also reportedly against the recently enacted paid sick leave policy for federal contractors. And he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

The incoming Labor Secretary has also expressed his enthusiasm for using automation to replace workers. A March 2016 Business Insider quoted Puzder as saying machines are "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."

Consumer preferences, government policies that increase labor costs, and reduced technology costs are driving a trend toward automation in the restaurant business, Puzder noted in an editorial he authored in March for The Wall Street Journal.

“But Puzder sees automation shaking up industries well beyond his own,” according to a recent Washington Post piece. “Technology has already started to replace workers in airports and grocery stores, he said, blaming the trend on the liberal labor policies advocated by Trump’s former Democratic presidential rivals.”

 

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