Fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder, President Trump's pick for secretary of labor, is a critic of a $15 hourly minimum wage and a strong opponent of most government policies that would micromanage how businesses operate. For example, Puzder opposes the Obama administration's overtime pay rule, which Puzder says would "add to the extensive regulatory maze the Obama administration has imposed on employers."
Critics of Puzder claim this makes him an enemy of workers, but the opposite is true: Workers, particularly women and those on the bottom of the economic ladder, will benefit most from the rolling back of excessive regulations that hamstring our economy.
The Left frequently argues that a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour would boost job growth and put more money in the pockets of women and other low-income workers, ultimately lifting many out of poverty. Giving lower-wage workers a raise certainly sounds like a compassionate and straightforward way to help people, but reality is much more complex. Some workers end up with higher take-home pay when the government requires bosses to pay them more, but many businesses simply can't afford to pay all of their workers such a high wage and end up having to find other ways to cut costs, such as trimming back hours or reducing the staff altogether.
That's exactly what's happened in New York and California, where the minimum wage is set to increase to $15 by 2022. Businesses have already been forced to let go of staff, depart for states with friendlier business conditions, or close their doors all together. Just to name a few, the owners of Piggy Pat's BBQ in New Hartford, N.Y., had to lay off six employees to stay in business. Then there's Ashley Furniture, which recently moved its facility from Colton, Calif., to states where the minimum wage is 52 percent lower than $15. Similarly, Black Oak Books in Berkeley, Calif., was forced to close its doors after 33 years in business because, in the words of the owner, "My expenses would go up 50 percent over the next five years, and to be honest, that just wasn't in the cards."
As anyone who has struggled to find a job, particularly a first job, knows, finding opportunity and getting access to the workforce is the real key, not exactly how much you are paid. Advocates of a higher minimum wage imply that most of those workers are trying to support a family and have been toiling for years at the same level of pay.
Reality is quite different: Minimum wage earners tend to be younger (about 50 percent are under age 25) and inexperienced, and most are not the primary breadwinner in their households. They tend to be just starting out or re-entering the workforce. They need a foot in the door, which is what that first job gives them. They know they won't stay at this low wage forever. In fact, two out of every three workers who start at minimum wage jobs are earning more than the minimum after one year.
Significantly raising the minimum wage means there will be far fewer jobs for these workers who are just starting out, creating barriers for those looking to climb the economic ladder. In truth, a minimum wage hike isn't compassionate at all, but is a massive impediment to upward mobility.
The Department of Labor's overtime rule similarly, at first, sounds like it will help people. Instead, it will backfire on many workers.
The now-delayed rule — which was on track to take effect nationwide on Dec. 1, 2016, before it was blocked by a federal judge in Texas — would greatly increase the number of workers who must be paid time and a half by their employers for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Again, some workers would have ended up with more money in their pockets, but many others would not. Instead, they'd find themselves with less work opportunities and a less flexible work environment. If implemented, the overtime rule would cost employers $9 billion per year, forcing businesses to protect themselves by lowering employees' take-home pay, eliminating jobs, and increasing prices for consumers.
Moreover, non-exempt employees who are currently paid a guaranteed salary regardless of the number of hours worked would now be required to track and report their time, and would only be paid for each hour on the job. For example, if a parent were to leave the office a couple of hours early one day to attend child's graduation, under the new rules where they are paid by the hour, they would not be compensated for that time as they were when they were on salary.
This one-size-fits-all policy would be especially bad news for mothers, who highly value flexible work arrangements. As is the case with any laborious reporting requirement, employers are unlikely to accommodate an employee's preference to work from home or work flexible hours if it makes tracking the hours spent on the job more difficult.
A better way to alleviate poverty and help more workers would be to roll back regulations and allow for a vibrant economy with plentiful job opportunities, so individuals can find positions most suitable to their individual skills and preferences. This will allow women to find work arrangements and compensation packages that work best for them and their families. When the job market thrives, employers must compete for the best workers by offering attractive salaries, benefits, and flexible working arrangements.
That's what Puzder has pledged to advance if he becomes labor secretary. That's welcome news to Americans who have been suffering from a lack of workplace opportunity. According to an Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll, while just 18 percent said things got better for them in 2016, 55 percent said they believe things will be better for them in 2017. One interviewee from Harlem weighed in and said, "Next year will be better than this year, because people will have more jobs and they'll have more money to spend."
More jobs and more money to spend. That's what a freer marketplace is likely to produce. And that's why it's good news for everyone, especially those looking for work or better opportunities, that we can expect Puzder to stay clear of constrictive government mandates and instead pursue policies focused on incentivizing economic growth and creating good paying jobs for all Americans.
Heather Madden is the director of advocacy projects at Independent Women's Voice.