By Steve Chucri | Point of View
From the pandemic to skyrocketing labor costs, worker shortages and supply chain interruptions, it has arguably never been harder to run an Arizona business, specifically a restaurant.
It is a testament to the men and women of this industry that, through it all, they have persevered, adapted and survived. But, the last thing Arizona restaurants need right now is a hostile federal government looking for new ways to squeeze us with additional bureaucracy, regulations and expenses.
Unfortunately, President Biden’s nominee for Labor Secretary – Julie Su – is someone who could aptly be described as an anti-business crusader.
Check her record. Su is an ardent supporter of California’s FAST Act, a radical law that puts a panel of unelected government bureaucrats in charge of setting wages and working conditions for an entire category of restaurant workers. The concept is so outrageous and so contrary to capitalist principles that one million Californians spoke up by demanding a referendum enabling voters to have their say before enforcement can begin.
Su’s dedication wasn’t dulled by the outcry, though. During a May 2022 video call with FAST Act proponents, she had this to say: “The Department of Labor stands with you. The Biden-Harris administration stands with you.”
Earlier, as labor secretary for the State of California between 2019-2021, Su was the architect of legislation that incorrectly reclassified independent contractors as employees. The law upended flexible work arrangements across multiple industries – from comedy club performers to personal fitness trainers, truck drivers, gig workers and more. Once again, voters had to intervene.
Don’t forget fraudsters ransacked the California treasury for an estimated $32 billion in phony unemployment benefits during Su’s oversight of the program. The U.S. Labor Department itself found that more than 1 in 3 unemployment claims paid by California during the first six months of the pandemic were fraudulent or improper.
Biden Labor nominee is bad for Arizona business and restaurants
This is the President’s nominee as Labor Secretary? No wonder so many business owners and industries are alarmed.
Restaurant operators, 9 out of 10 of which are small businesses, rightfully worry about what Su’s pledge to eliminate the tip credit will mean, for instance. The franchise sector – which numbers over 18,000 establishments in Arizona, including many restaurants – has also spoken against Su’s nomination.
Our state lost about 1,000 restaurants during the pandemic. Although some have since reopened and new eateries emerged, significant challenges remain and the entire industry is getting by on razor-thin margins. Many Arizona restaurants simply cannot survive a shift from a balanced, free market economy to one run by government diktat.
The only good news here is that Su’s confirmation can still be undone. Sens. Sinema and Kelly have an opportunity to block Su and call on the Biden administration to return with a Labor nominee who will champion policies that support not just workers, but also the businesses that employ them.
Editor’s note: Steve Chucri is President & CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association. He can be reached at Steve@AZrestaurant.org.