As the CEO of the corporation that operates Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, President-elect Donald Trump’s labor secretary pick Andy Puzder has frequently criticized efforts to raise the minimum wage, claiming that higher wages are inadequate for entry-level employees and overly burdensome to businesses like his fast food empire.
That aligns with Trump’s position.
But Puzder’s devotion to cheap labor extends to being an outspoken proponent of offering legal status to undocumented workers and pushing for immigration reform — something that is discordant with Trump’s obsession with blocking and deporting undocumented immigrants.
“Our values indicate we should be the party of immigration reform,” Puzder said on a conference call of GOP donors in favor of immigration reform earlier in the year. Many undocumented immigrants “live in fear of being deported, losing what they’ve built and being separated from their families,” he said.
His less noble and more opportunistic reasoning was apparent during an event at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute in June of 2013 — as Congress was engaged in debate about immigration reform — where Puzder offered his candid view on the value of an immigrant workforce.
“Our Hardee’s restaurant operators in the Midwest and Southeast often use the labor force in California as an example of what they would like their labor force to be,” he explained. “They’re very hardworking, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact they have a job. Whereas in other parts of the country you often get people that are saying, ‘I can’t believe I have to work this job.’ With the immigrant population you always have the ‘Thank God I have this job’ kind of attitude. So you end up with a real different feeling.”
Puzder’s implication was that the immigrant workers were more satisfied because they had no choice but to work such low-skilled, low-wage jobs.
“Now that’s a gross generalization,” he said, catching himself. “There are many, many people of all races and nationalities who appreciate the fact they have jobs, so I’m generalizing and maybe that’s a bad thing to do, but I think its probably accurate.”
Moderator Walter Shapiro of Yahoo News asked Puzder what would happen to his company’s ability to recruit a workforce if the unemployment rate dropped and immigration reform failed.
“It would be certainly more difficult if we go back to those days where we’re getting 120, 130 percent turnover,” Puzder said. “Your ability to hire the level of employee that you want when you’re in a business where you require low-skilled workers — where it’s really entry level positions — where it’s how people get into the workforce and kind of obtain the entrepreneurial skills they need to go forward, as places, other businesses are attracting those employees, obviously we’d have a more difficult time. If however we were able to hire people who are currently here illegally, if there were a way to change their status so that they are here legally that would be a big benefit I think to us and to everybody else that has to hire workers in that category. I think that it’d be a real boost to the economy.”