President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKE) CEO Andy Puzder for Secretary of Labor has renewed the debate for higher minimum wage. Puzder, who has been a critic of a minimum-wage hike, is one of the business leaders in the fast-food industry who has warned such action could lead to companies stepping up implementation of automation and robotics in an effort to reduce costs.
On the FOX Business Network in May, Puzder pointed to the rise of automation at airports and grocery stores as a sign more automation was on the way. Meanwhile, former McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) USA CEO Ed Rensi agreed with Puzder’s sentiment, telling Maria Bartiromo that it’s cheaper to buy a robotic arm than hire inefficient employees at $15 an hour.
But not everyone agrees with that sentiment. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is a proponent of a minimum wage increase.
“I try to fight every which way to raise wages, whether it’s at the federal government level, whether it’s the state government level, people can’t live on $10 an hour. You’ve got to raise wages to a living wage for people,” Weingarten told Bartiromo on Friday.
Weingarten took issue with the nomination of Puzder to Labor Secretary because of his views on the use of automation and robots.
“If you have in restaurants, if you are the Labor Secretary and you believe in replacing workers with robots, I think that’s a problem.”
Weingarten said rather than pushing workers out of industry altogether, a better way to put younger workers into jobs is bolstering the tech education system.
“I want to take you to some of the robotic fairs that I’ve seen, we are educating kids to build the robots and frankly, the career tech ed programs that we have in America, that my union has been championing, are fantastic and we should have more of them,” he said.