NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump has picked Andrew Puzder, the head of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast food restaurants, as his nominee for Labor secretary, a source familiar with the decision tells CNN.
Puzder, 66, is a vocal critic of government regulation and opposes a $15 minimum wage, broader overtime pay and the Affordable Care Act.
The Labor Department oversees America’s job market, regulates the workplace, and produces statistics like the unemployment rate that underpin economic policy.
Puzder has been the CEO of CKE Restaurants since 2000. He’s credited with turning around the Hardee’s brand, but his company has been accused of labor violations and fielded complaints about sexist commercials.
His appointment, which would require Senate confirmation, comes at a time when restaurants and other low-wage industries are feeling pressure to increase pay. Puzder would likely resist those pressures as Labor secretary.
The fast food industry in particular has been the target of nationwide protests pushing for a $15 minimum wage, up from the current $7.25.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March, Puzder said a $15 minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave laws and the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, raise costs for employers and force them to rely more on automated technology.
“While the technology is becoming much cheaper, government mandates have been making labor much more expensive,” he wrote.
Puzder told the Los Angeles Times in March that he’s not opposed to raising the federal minimum wage above $7.25 or pegging it to inflation, though he said a jump to $15 an hour will cost workers their jobs.
Puzder has also been one of the harshest critics of an Obama administration rule that would require workers who make less than $47,500 and work 40 hours per week be paid overtime. The rule was put on hold by a federal judge in November.
“The real world is far different than the Labor Department’s Excel spreadsheet,” Puzder wrote in a Forbes guest column in May. “This new rule will simply add to the extensive regulatory maze the Obama Administration has imposed on employers, forcing many to offset increased labor expense by cutting costs elsewhere.”
In 2004, CKE agreed to pay $9 million to settle three class-action lawsuits involving overtime pay. Puzder told the Orange County Register in 2014 that CKE had spent $20 million on overtime lawsuits in California over the previous eight years, and that the company had reclassified managers as hourly workers as a result.
Under Puzder, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have come under fire for notoriously lewd commercials targeting young men.
A racy ad featuring a bikini-clad Paris Hilton washing a car while eating a Carl’s Jr. burger debuted in 2005. Since then, the brand has doubled down on using supermodels to sell hamburgers. A 2015 Super Bowl commercial featuring a seemingly nude Charlotte McKinney was widely panned.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a beautiful woman in a bikini, eating a burger and washing a Bentley or a pickup truck or being in a hot tub,” Puzder told CNNMoney in 2015. “I think there’s probably nothing more American.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Puzder will take over for Tom Perez, who was nominated by President Obama in 2013.
Perez issued a rule that extended minimum wage and overtime protections to home health care workers, and he pushed for a rule requiring lawyers to disclose the work they do for employers on union negotiations. That rule has also been blocked by a federal judge.
The Labor Department offers job training programs to workers who lose their jobs because of global trade. It can also fine companies for breaking labor laws, such as the minimum wage.
The Labor Department is one of the economy’s principal record-keepers through its oversight of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
During his presidential campaign, Trump sought to discredit BLS numbers. He has claimed, falsely, that the published unemployment rate is a “joke” and a “hoax.”
In a speech after he won the New Hampshire primary in February, Trump speculated that the unemployment rate was “probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42%.” The unemployment rate was 4.9% at the time and has since fallen to 4.6%.
The BLS also publishes the monthly jobs report and an an array of data on wages, jobs and industries.