On Sunday, a friend sent me Nick Welsh’s April 21 Angry Poodle Barbecue column entitled “Every Dog Has His Day.” As I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear, there was much with which I disagreed. Without getting into every issue, I thought it would be helpful to correct some errors for purposes of this article and any future articles.
First it’s just untrue that CKE Restaurants, the company for which I serve as CEO, is moving to Nashville because “California’s labor laws have proved too complicated for” it or me. The problems with California’s labor laws impact our restaurants (which are not moving) but have little, if any, impact at the headquarters level.
We currently have three corporate offices, in Carpinteria, Anaheim, and St. Louis, Missouri. We need only two. So, when our leases expire in Carpinteria and St. Louis next year, we will consolidate those offices in Nashville. We chose Nashville for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons was that the restaurants in Nashville are company-owned rather than franchised. Franchisees own and operate our Santa Barbara County and St. Louis restaurants. It’s better to have the corporate offices where we own the restaurants.
We will keep our Anaheim, California, corporate office (which houses the majority of our corporate employees), and we are neither moving nor closing our California restaurants (although our franchisees’ restaurants will open and close in the ordinary course of business as recently occurred with a closure on State Street and an opening in Northern California). For better or worse, California’s labor laws will continue to govern labor practices in our restaurants after we move our headquarters.
Rather than “3,600 outlets employing about 20,000 people nationwide,” as your article states, we have nearly 3,700 restaurants in 44 states and 38 foreign countries (for future reference, we regularly update that number at the end of our press releases as we opened over 170 restaurants last year alone). At the company level we employ about 10,000 people domestically, and our franchisees employ about 65,000 additional people domestically. Not bad for a company started by a young man and his wife who, 75 years ago, bought a hot dog cart in South Central LA for $315.
Rather than “90 percent of our employees making less than $9 an hour until a few minutes ago,” as your article states, our average company restaurant-level wage is about $11 an hour. We offer all of our qualified employees company-sponsored ObamaCare coverage. We offer, and have long offered, all of our employees (including those who don’t qualify for ObamaCare coverage) access to affordable group medical coverage. We also offer full-time employees who have been with us a year education benefits that max out at $20,000.
On the personal side, I am not an “Anybody but Trump” supporter, nor am I working to derail Trump or anyone else. I have said on national TV a number of times that I will support Trump if he is the nominee. I will also support Governor Kasich if he is the nominee. I will support the candidate for President who most strongly believes in individual liberty, economic freedom, and limited government. I am hosting an event at our home for Senator Cruz. I’ve done the same for a number of candidates including Mitt Romney, Kevin McCarthy, Carly Fiorina, and Dianne Feinstein.
Your statement that “[t]his year Puzder has already made at least $332,000 in campaign donations” is simply untrue. I do contribute to candidates in whom I believe, but this statement was a gross overstatement. It certainly surprised my wife.
Your statement that I am “paid $17,000 a day” is also simple untrue (another surprise for my wife). I am well paid and proud of it, but not nearly that well. If I made that much, I would be proud that my employer valued my contribution that highly. I come from a working class family and started out making $1 an hour scooping ice cream at Baskin and Robbins. To support my family and pay for college and law school, among other jobs, I painted houses, cut lawns and busted up concrete with a jackhammer. I’m proud of my success and would like to see every American have the same opportunities I had.
It is both inaccurate and too simple to say I am “against raising the minimum wage”. I am against raising the minimum wage dramatically so that it prices working class youth out of the entry level jobs they need to get on the ladder of opportunity. As Gov. Brown said in January of this year, raising “the minimum wage too much” would put “a lot of poor people out of work” and “[t]here won’t be a lot of jobs.” A December 2015 paper released by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (hardly a bastion of conservative economic thought) confirmed the job-killing impact minimum wage increases can have. Unfortunately, it’s a hard point to make in the current politically charged environment, but Gov. Brown was correct. Particularly with respect to working class, minority, and under-privileged Californians in counties still experiencing high unemployment such as Fresno (10.6 percent), Kern (11.6 percent), and Merced (12.5 percent).
Rationally raising the minimum wage can make economic sense. Raising it too much, as Gov. Brown said, puts “poor people out of work.” I am opposed to that.
Finally, while I did author the portion of law the Supreme Court upheld in the Webster case declaring that human life begins at conception, I did not author the separate part covering public employees as your article indicates. It’s also true that the woman who ran the abortion clinic in that case and I got together afterward and started something that became a national organization known as the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice. We worked on ways to expand choices for women while limiting the number of abortions. Again, something hard to accomplish on such a politically charged issue, and the effort failed after a few years. But I thought it might interest you to learn that we made the effort.
While we may well disagree politically or philosophically, I’m hopeful that the foregoing clarifies some of the points you made. Next time, if you would like to discuss any issues with me, please feel free to call.