CKE Restaurant Holdings CEO Andy Puzder, a vocal critic of President Obama’s regulatory agenda and vociferous backer of President-elect Donald Trump, has been tapped to be the next labor secretary, according to the Wall Street Journal. USA Today and The New York Times also report that Puzder will be the nominee.
Speculation of a Puzder-to-labor nomination has been rampant since Trump’s surprise win in November. That speculation has only grown as Trump has tapped various business executives to fill out his cabinet.
Puzder and his representatives did not immediately return requests for comment.
Thursday’s report was met almost immediately with praise from the International Franchise Association.
“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 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.”
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.
Update: Dec. 8, 2016 This story has been updated with more information.