Fast-food restaurant chain CEO takes aim at Obama’s overtime action

Roy Cordato isn’t the only one raising concerns about President Obama’s efforts to change standards for overtime pay. Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, adds his thoughts on the topic in a Wall Street Journal column. CKE Restaurants is the parent company of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and other chains.

At issue is a growing inequality problem in the United States. Increasingly, Americans don’t have the career opportunities most took for granted a decade ago. Many are withdrawing from the labor force, frustrated because they’re unable to find a job and lured to depend on government rather than on themselves.

Rewarding time spent rather than time well spent won’t help address this problem. Workers who aspire to climb the management ladder strive for the opportunity to move from hourly-wage, crew-level positions to salaried management positions with performance-based incentives. What they lose in overtime pay they gain in the stature and sense of accomplishment that comes from being a salaried manager. This is hardly oppressive. To the contrary, it can be very lucrative for those willing to invest the time and energy, which explains why so many crew employees aspire to be managers.

As the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants—the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, among other chains—for the past 13 years, I’ve seen this phenomenon in action every day. I’ve watched young men and women enter the labor force in our restaurants. I’ve seen the pride and determination that leads to success in their careers and lives. Some move on to other jobs and challenges equipped with the experience you can only get from a paying job. Others stay, aspiring to move up to managerial positions. There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing new and unskilled employees work their way up to managing a restaurant. …

… Our company-owned restaurant general managers earn a management-level salary starting around $36,000 and going as high as $65,000—the average is around $45,000—plus benefits. They also have the potential to earn a substantial performance-based bonus, up to 28% of their salary. They can progress through our management ranks as high as their ambition may take them. Our executive vice presidents responsible for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s both started as crew employees who worked their way up to general managers. Rather than overtime pay, they got an opportunity to prove themselves.

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