As Puzder Pushes Radical Ideas, NYC Models the Right Way to Treat Workers

When working people make more money, they spend that money—and businesses hire more working people to meet increased demand.


Drew Angerer/Getty

Families across America are struggling to make ends meet. Many workers cannot survive without two or even three jobs. Meanwhile, CEOs are taking home sickening amounts of money. It’s happening all over, but if you want especially egregious examples, look no further than the fast-food industry.

That’s why all of us should be deeply disturbed by President Trump’s choice for secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder.

A veteran of the fast-food industry, Puzder has enriched himself on the backs of the most vulnerable workers in this country. Meanwhile, he has opposed even modest increases in the federal minimum wage and common-sense overtime protections that would not only bring relief to millions of working families, but would actually be better for his own industry.

To defend his views, Puzder trots out the tired and discredited argument that “lower-skilled workers, working-class Americans, young people, minorities” would lose jobs if the federal minimum wage were to go up to just $10 an hour.

Here in New York City, we know there is a better way.

In a few short years, we have expanded the right to paid sick leave to cover a half million more residents; we've expanded paid parental leave for City workers and increased the living wage that companies doing business with the City must pay. We’ve signed a first-of-its-kind law that helps freelance workers get the wages they’re entitled to.

We've also raised the minimum wage for all city government employees and those who provide contracted work for the city, meaning that 50,000 workers will earn a $15 minimum wage by the end of next year.

These reforms and others haven’t just benefitted workers. They have been fantastic for our local businesses. As of December 2016, New York City’s unemployment rate stood at just 5.2%, significantly lower than 8.2%, where it was when I took office. The city added a record 250,000 jobs in just two years.

Even Puzder’s fellow fast-food CEOs disagree with his radical views. Bill Phelps of Wetzel’s Pretzels has observed that after two increases in California’s minimum wage, sales doubled and he didn’t have to lay anyone off.

That makes sense. When working people make more money, they spend that money—and businesses hire more working people to meet increased demand.

In New York City, we're doing even more. Our 65,000 fast food workers suffer greatly from unpredictable scheduling practices that are pervasive in their industry. They never know their schedules ahead of time and are often forced to work back-to-back shifts just to keep their jobs.

How can anyone build a stable family life, further their education, or take that needed second job when their employer treats them like a cog in a machine? They can’t. They need a fair work week.

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Legislation we introduced in the City Council requires fast food companies to set employee schedules two weeks in advance. Employers won't be able to force employees to work back-to-back shifts without employee consent and without offering extra compensation.

While we're doing everything we can to protect and uplift workers in New York City, we’ve got to fight what Puzder might do in Washington. With Republicans controlling the presidency and Congress, the Department of Labor under Puzder could roll back protections against discrimination and wage theft.

Let’s not forget a basic truth: corporations can’t survive without their workers. Wealthy executives would be nowhere without the people who actually get the job done. Here in New York City we keep that in mind every day. America deserves a secretary of Labor who doesn’t need to have this basic reality explained to him.