CKE Restaurants Inc. CEO Andy Puzder on Thursday vowed to divest his interest in the company he’s run for the past 17 years, as part of his bid to become the next secretary of labor under President Trump.
A spokesman for Puzder said in a statement that the executive “is working to divest assets” and said that doing so is “a complex process” because the owner of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. is a private company.
Puzder vowed Thursday that he is “fully committed” to be the labor secretary, amid heavy criticism from labor groups and some Democrats over his nomination.
“I am fully committed to becoming Secretary of Labor and I am looking forward to my hearing,” Puzder said in a statement on Thursday.
Puzder was nominated for the post in January, but his hearing in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has been delayed — reportedly because he has yet to file paperwork with the Office of Government Ethics. The office requires cabinet appointees to divest their interest in potential conflicts of interest, either through a sale or by putting that interest in a blind trust.
His departure from CKE would end a remarkably long tenure with the company and made Puzder one of the most well-known and highly respected executives in the restaurant industry.
Puzder has been involved in the quick-service chain operator in some fashion for the past 26 years. He was named president and CEO of CKE Restaurants in September 2000.
Puzder has been a vocal opponent of higher minimum wages and an expansion of overtime pay, as well as the Affordable Care Act. He was an early backer of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy and was quickly speculated as a potential labor secretary shortly after Trump’s election.
The restaurant industry has largely cheered his nomination. The restaurant industry is a huge employer, and has been critical of various moves in recent years to increase worker pay. It views Puzder as a champion of its causes, and believes the executive would ease the regulatory burden on restaurant companies.
But those stances have also made Puzder a lightning rod for labor activists, who view the executive as an opponent to their cause at a time when they’ve been pushing restaurants to raise pay and become friendlier to unions.
“For the past eight years, the Labor Department has overwhelmed job creators with burdensome regulations, creating immense uncertainty for employers,” conservative groups backing the nomination wrote. “This has led to subpar economic recovery, including gross domestic product growth that has averaged less than 2 percent under President Obama.”
Labor activists, on the other hand, argue that Puzder’s own company was cited frequently for failing to pay minimum wage or overtime. “Puzder’s confirmation would ensure that the interests of the fast food industry — and its large meat and food industry suppliers — would prevail over the needs of hard working people in the food system,” the group wrote.
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