Low Pay at Andy Puzder’s Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr. Restaurants Drives Workers Onto Public Programs
NATIONWIDE—Low pay and lack of benefits at restaurants run by Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, Andy Puzder, costs taxpayers nearly $250 million a year in public assistance, a new report by the National Employment Law Project shows.
“Donald Trump promised to look out for workers and taxpayers when he campaigned for president, but his choice for labor secretary—a fast-food CEO—has been terrible for both,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Working Americans need a labor secretary who has their backs, not a burger mogul who keeps his workers in poverty and forces taxpayers to pick up the tab.”
The NELP report, “Bilked: How Trump’s Labor Secretary Pick Costs Taxpayers $250 Million per Year,” builds on previous research quantifying the cost to taxpayers from the fast-food industry’s low pay and lack of benefits. NELP’s earlier study, “Super-Sizing Public Costs: How Low Wages at Top Fast-Food Chains Leave Taxpayers Footing the Bill,” used data on the costs of low-wage jobs published by the UC Berkeley Labor Center to estimate that low wages and lack of benefits at the 10 largest fast-food companies in the United States cost taxpayers an estimated $3.8 billion per year. Altogether, 52 percent of fast-food workers rely on public assistance to get by, according to Berkeley.
Puzder’s fast-food empire is notoriously opaque, with CKE having changed hands in two consecutive private-equity leveraged buyouts in the last six years. However, using public statements provided by Puzder and CKE, NELP has concluded that CKE workers cost taxpayers $247 million a year to offset its poverty-level wages. A full explanation of the methodology can be found in the report.
Meanwhile, a look at the most recently available public filings shows Puzder’s total compensation was $4.5 million in 2012 and $10.1 million in 2011. Despite his personal fortune, Puzder opposes meaningful increases to the minimum wage for the workers who make his company’s profits possible. Puzder also opposes basic benefits like paid sick days, and has even complained about having to give employees rest and meal breaks. He is also an outspoken opponent of Department of Labor overtime reforms that would close a long-exploited corporate loophole and give middle-class workers paid less than $47,500 per year a much-needed raise.
“Even though Andy Puzder makes more in a day than I make in a year, I’m turning to food stamps to put dinner on the table to feed my children,” said Lupe Guzman, who has worked at Carl Jr.’s in Las Vegas for the past seven years and is paid $8.75/hour. “I don’t want handouts—I want my full-time job to be enough that I can buy food, pay rent, and go to the doctor’s without worrying that it will put us over the edge. Those of us at CKE know Puzder is bad for the company’s workers—and we’re speaking out because we know he’ll be bad for America, too.”