Andy Puzder, the CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. owner CKE Restaurants and a vocal critic of President Obama’s regulatory agenda over the past eight years, has been tapped to be the next labor secretary.
In so doing, President-elect Donald Trump selected an attorney turned restaurant industry executive who has pushed hard against rising minimum wages, new overtime regulations and requirements that companies offer health insurance.
The nomination ended weeks of speculation that began almost immediately after Trump’s surprise win in November.
The nomination was met almost immediately with praise from various business groups who see in Puzder a strong advocate for their cause.
National Restaurant Association CEO Dawn Sweeney said that Puzder “brings much-needed business experience to the Department of Labor. He has a proven track record of turning around businesses, and his background in the restaurant industry will help foster an environment for job creation.”
“Andy would be an exceptional choice to lead the Labor Department and we applaud President-elect Trump for recognizing Andy’s business experience and policy acumen on so many issues impacting employers and employees in today’s economy,” the International Franchise Association said in a statement.
The National Council of Chain Restaurants also praised the nomination. “We are very pleased that President-elect Trump has chosen a nominee with the experience, knowledge and unique leadership skills necessary for this important position,” NCCR Executive Director Rob Green said in a statement. “Once confirmed, Mr. Puzder will be an effective advocate for balanced federal policy at the Labor Department. That benefits all stakeholders — including chain restaurants, small businesses and their employees around the country.”
Yet the nomination came under fire from numerous groups, particularly labor activists who have been pushing the restaurant industry to raise wages.
“So much for draining the swamp,” MoveOn.org Executive Director Anna Galland said in a statement.
“Andrew Puzder’s nomination as labor secretary is the latest of Trump’s Orwellian doublespeak,” Sriram Madhusoodanan, director of the Value [the] Meal campaign with Corporate Accountability International. “Despite Trump’s promise to ‘drain the swamp,’ he is instead flooding the swamp with people most committed to furthering the interests of transnational corporations at the expense of millions of people around the globe.”
Puzder’s view on workforce issues
Puzder has been an outspoken critic of the current administration, believing that pushes to increase the minimum wage, along with requirements that employers provide health coverage, are costing jobs.
“The problem now is the government,” Puzder said in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News earlier this year. “We’ve spent seven years of the Obama administration doing everything they possibly could, keeping us from opening new businesses.”
Puzder has also suggested that the slump in restaurant industry same-store sales is directly related to the stagnant economy. He has argued that demand for higher wages is discouraging job growth, which is tempering wages.
“There’s been a slump in same-store sales in the industry over the past six to nine months,” he said in September. “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that economic growth … over that time has averaged under 1 percent.
“When businesses don’t create jobs, employees end up competing for low-wage jobs rather than having employers compete for employees, so wages stagnate, paths to the middle class close and income inequality increases.”
Puzder has taken the administration to task for pushing more union membership. “Businesses create jobs; labor unions do not,” he wrote in an October column in the Wall Street Journal. “To the contrary, labor unions often discourage businesses from creating jobs, particularly entry-level ones, by increasing the cost of labor without increasing its value.”
He has also been a strong backer of Trump for some time, and has long said that restaurant owners should back him, too. “The lines are so clearly drawn that it would be hard to be any clearer,” he said in September. “Donald Trump is the individual the restaurant industry should be behind.”
At the recent Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, Puzder praised the election results, saying that Trump’s victory will reverse the Obama years and their impact on businesses. Even then, speculation was rampant that Puzder would be labor secretary.
Puzder called for an increase in the minimum wage during that speech, saying that Republicans should support an increase to $8.75 to $9 — much lower than other proposed increases. He also proposed that it be tied to inflation, “to end this debate once and for all.”
“This comes up every couple of years and they hammer us with it,” he said.