Billionaire President-elect Donald Trump is no friend of workers. His pick for Labor Secretary is Andrew Pudzer, millionaire boss of Carl’s Jr. and Hardees fast food restaurants. This presents a major conflict of interest.
Pudzer is a strident opponent of unions and the national movement of low-wage workers fighting to increase the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour. He is also adamantly opposed to minimal paid sick and family leave for millions of workers who don’t have it, and getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. He doesn’t even believe in paying the prevailing minimum wage rates and overtime. Like Trump, he also complains that the minimum wage is too high.
Nearly 60 percent of Pudzer’s restaurants have been cited by the Labor Department for wage and overtime violations. In 2015, the Labor Department issued over 11,000 wage and hour violations. Pudzer received 4,700 of them.
Pudzer makes close to $17,000 a day. Compare this to the average minimum wage worker in one of his restaurants, who are kept at part-time to avoid medical benefits, and who average only $15,000 a year. His ads target young men, selling burgers using bikini-clad blondes, calling it “very American.”
He says if workers attain the right to living wages, he’ll retool his firms with robots because they never need breaks or vacations, nor “slip and fall or file race, age or sex discrimination cases.”
But there is some good news for America’s low-wage workers. On Nov. 29, low-wage earners in over 340 cities marched, called strikes and sat down in front of fast food restaurants, healthcare facilities, retail outlets and office buildings, with hundreds even getting arrested to increase the minimum to a more livable $15 an hour.
On Kauai, a resolution was passed last year by the County Council to increase the minimum to $15 an hour for Kauai’s largest and wealthiest employers, and to $12.50 an hour for “medium” firms and to $11 for the smallest. But this is not law, only an “intent.”
Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation. That’s why there will be a bill introduced at the 2017 State of Hawaii Legislative Session to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all of Hawaii’s workers. It won’t be easy. There will be some Democrats who claim to be pro-labor but don’t want touch this issue. Workers in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City have won this fight and have proven this goal is possible.
The National Labor Relations Board has recently ordered Trump to negotiate with his unionized workforce of over 500 in his Las Vegas Trump International Hotel. The Culinary Workers Local 226 (related to Hawaii’s Local 5) has won the right to negotiate a contract with Trump, but he continues to ignore them.
Instead, he has employed a union-busting firm at $500,000, which has continued to dispute the union election victory and has tried to cause dissension among the U.S.-born workers and those that are foreign-born without any success. His workers get paid about $3 an hour less than other unionized workers employed in similar types of hotels in Las Vegas. Trump’s workforce is over 56 percent Latino and many are women. The workers have a slogan that mockingly says, “Making America great again starts here!”
Trump’s Carrier Plant deal in Indiana was a sham. He claims to have saved about 1,000 jobs out of 2,100 that Carrier planned to send to Mexico, but in truth he only saved 730 union positions and 70 salaried non-union jobs for a total of only 800. The rest of the thousand were clerical and engineering positions that Carrier had no intention of sending off to Mexico.
It’s good that 800 workers get to keep their jobs, but what about the rest? He made an election promise to save all these jobs. He publicly demanded Carrier to “pay a damn tax” of 35 percent on every unit sold back in the United States. Not in Trump’s deal.
The United Steel Workers Union Local 1999 has tried to work with Carrier, but were told that the factory workers would have to work for $6 an hour for its plants to stay put. This is not only ridiculous but against Indiana’s wage law which has the minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour!
The Local 1999 leadership, composed mostly of rank and filers, are fighting to save every job, but as the worker’s legal representative to negotiate, they were completely bypassed by Trump in this deal.
The union even thanked Trump for saving just 800 jobs, but when the president of the union, Chuck Jones, truthfully criticized Trump’s deal as basically a publicity scam and inadequate, a vengeful Trump started a Twitter war with Jones, prompting Trump supporters to threaten the man and his family. Carrier also got a tax break of $7 million over 10 years. That’s $7 million less tax dollars for the citizens of Indiana.
The owner of Carrier, United Technologies (UT) is not going broke. They service the military. UT made a monster profit of over $7.6 billion in 2015 and received more than $6 billion in defense contracts. They also received a loan of $50 million from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Their chief executive, Louis Chenevert, received a salary, bonuses and stock options worth more than $172 million last year.
The company’s other top five bosses made more than a combined $50 million in salaries. The fear now is, what is there to stop corporations who have no intention of leaving, threaten to flee and receive generous tax breaks and incentives like Carrier? Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is now working on introducing the “Outsourcing Prevention Act” to address this problem.
When questioned why Trump’s Cabinet picks are mostly billionaires and multi-millionaires from Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs, Trump replies that he likes “successful people.”
Yeah, they’re successful alright, because they’re “great” at ripping workers off, plundering the world’s resources and denying climate change. Trump’s Cabinet picks are like having a pack of ravenous mongoose guard the chicken shack.
Raymond Catania is a resident of Lihue.