How about an Automated Secretary of Labor?
Go with me on this one. Seeing as how robots are the way of the future, couldn’t they be programmed to oversee entire workforces and workforce policy in Donald Trump’s new America? How much simpler would it be if we took the human element out of labor relations!
Dystopia? Well, Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE (which operates Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) and the president-elect’s selection for Secretary of Labor, told Business Insider that he was interested in implementing a fully automated restaurant. This would be a step toward curbing what Puzder – a millionaire several times over -- perceives as a crisis in the escalation of the minimum wage, something this business magnate views as a death knell to entry level jobs.
"With government driving up the cost of labor, it's driving down the number of jobs,” he has said. “You're going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants. This is the problem with … progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage. Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?"
America, meet your new Secretary of Labor. Time to dust off our passports and head to the Air Canada counter?
President-elect Trump’s appointment of Puzder was the crowning indignity of a week during which organized labor took it on the chin. We began with Virginia Foxx, the incoming chair of the congressional panel overseeing labor issues questioning whether unions still had reason to exist (Uh, yes!), segued into a president calling out Chuck Jones, a United Steelworkers President in Indiana on Twitter (how much free time does this man have?) and concluded with the appointment of a Labor Secretary who is on record as saying that bikini clad hotties gobbling cheeseburgers in his commercials is “very American.”
To each his own, but call us old fashioned. We still believe supporting good jobs that pay a living wage is very American. We think a $15 minimum wage is what America stands for.
There has been quite a bit of hand-wringing and apocalypse forecasting all during the election as labor leaders have shuddered over the changes that a right-to-work advocate like Trump would do to America’s labor force. Then, on Nov. 8, the unthinkable happened, followed by more uncertainty. With Puzder being nominated for the DOL, the picture is starting to clear, and, indeed, things are looking awfully grim.
We were frankly surprised that things could get even more Twilight Zone-ish than they already were, but then Trump fired up his itchy Twitter finger. A president elect tweet-bashing an Indiana union president after the union president questions Trump’s data over the number of jobs that Carrier will keep in the United States? As the bumper sticker says, (albeit in slightly saltier language) “You can’t make this (stuff) up.”
God help us all when the behavior of our President-elect feels like a distraction or, even worse, the ravings of someone who lashes back at anyone who calls him out. But goofy as they may initially seem, these actions have consequences. Trump had barely hit send on his tweet, when union president Jones started getting threatening phone calls.
The Trump vs. Jones situation arose, ironically, out of the smoldering ashes of what Trump must have envisioned would be his first political triumph. He claimed he was responsible for saving 1,100 jobs at Carrier. Chuck Jones said, no, it was closer to 800 and accused the president-elect of “lying his a— off.” Then things got personal. Trump first slammed Jones and, in a subsequent tweet, he blasted the entire organization of United Steelworkers, telling the union to “Spend more time working -- less time talking. Reduce dues.”
If organized labor chooses to find a wide-ranging and more ominous meaning in that tweet, they’re probably not far off. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, author and former New York Times labor and workplace reporter Steven Greenhouse suggests that Trump might have been referring not just to United Steelworkers but “to unionized workers in general.”
“By asserting that Midwestern workers toil too little and talk too much, he was essentially insulting many of the blue-collar workers who voted for him,” Greenhouse wrote. “Anyone who believes in robust, pluralistic democracy should be worried that a national leader, so soon after being elected, is assailing labor unions with an eye to weakening them.”
One day later, we got Puzder. Brace yourself working people, the robots are coming.