Donald Trump To Choose Fast-Food CEO To Be His Labor Secretary – Huffington Post

In a rebuke to President Barack Obama’s work on the labor front, President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday is expected to choose a fast-food executive to be the nation’s next labor secretary, tasked with enforcing workplace safety and wage laws on behalf of U.S. workers.

Andrew Puzder, who advised Trump during his presidential campaign, is the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which includes the burger chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. among its brands. He’s largely credited with turning around Hardee’s after taking over the company in 1997.

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported the Puzder pick on Thursday, citing anonymous transition officials.

Just as with his cabinet picks for health and education, Trump’s choice of Puzder for the labor post suggests an eagerness to dismantle much of Obama’s legacy and govern as a firm conservative.

Puzder was a sharp critic of Obama’s labor policies, lambasting him for expanding overtime pay for workers and for trying to raise the minimum wage. While Obama aligned himself with fast-food workers who’ve gone on strike to raise wages, Trump is instead naming one of their bosses to be the country’s top workplace watchdog.

Puzder has made his philosophy of governing fairly clear through his op-eds, television appearances and personal blog. Like Trump, he argues that the federal government has made regulations too burdensome on businesses, stifling job growth. Two of the major regulations he has criticized ― the minimum wage and overtime ― are ones he would be tasked with enforcing.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration overhauled the nation’s overtime rules, trying to make them more generous to workers. Under the changes, which are now blocked in court and may never see the light of day, 4.2 million more salaried workers would be guaranteed time-and-a-half pay when they work over 40 hours in a week. The overtime changes would be the most significant labor reform of the Obama era.

Puzder is not a fan of them. Writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2014, he said the rules would hurt the workers they were intended to help, like the fast-food managers who work for Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. Many of those managers would be newly entitled to overtime. “Overtime pay has to come from somewhere, most likely from reduced hours, reduced salaries or reduced bonuses,” Puzder wrote.

In an interview earlier this year, Puzder also made clear that he didn’t want to see a major hike to the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour and was last raised in 2009. Raising the wage floor significantly, he said, would compel businesses to look into replacing workers with machines. “With government driving up the cost of labor, it’s driving down the number of jobs,” he said. “You’re going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants.”

Puzder told the L.A. Times that he isn’t opposed to a minimum wage in principle, and doesn’t mind an occasional bump. He also told the paper he’d be open to indexing the wage floor, so that it rises gradually over time. 

In addition to advising Trump, Puzder was also an adviser to the 2012 campaign of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. This election cycle, Puzder and his wife gave $150,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, the joint fundraising committee between Trump and the Republican National Committee, according to campaign finance records. Puzder himself gave another $10,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a political action committee supporting Trump. 

No one can say Puzder is unfamiliar with the Labor Department’s work. Like other fast-food chains, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants are often investigated for possible minimum wage and overtime infractions. A recent analysis from Bloomberg found that officials discovered violations in roughly 60 percent of their investigations of those chain’s locations. Most Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. locations are operated by franchisees, rather than by CKE Restaurants itself, meaning the company itself is typically not considered responsible under the law.

Obama used the power of the executive pen to institute many labor reforms, particularly in the last three years of his tenure, and Trump’s nomination of Puzder does not bode well for them. Aside from the overtime changes, Obama signed executive orders raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and guaranteeing them paid sick days, as well as an order that would take contracts away from firms that break labor laws.

It’s ultimately up to Trump whether he wants to reverse those executive orders, or write new rules that completely undo the ones instituted by Obama. (A good example would be the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which basically cracks down on 401(k) fees and is tied up in court.) In Puzder, Trump would have a cabinet official who’s advocated for loosening the very types of regulations that the Obama administration championed.

One area where Puzder appears moderate is immigration. In an interview with The Hill last year, Puzder said the party needs to have empathy for undocumented immigrants. (Fast-food restaurants employ a disproportionate amount of immigrant workers, including many who are undocumented.) “People vote with their hearts… Our values indicate we should be the party of immigration reform,” Puzder said. “[Many undocumented immigrants] live in fear of being deported, losing what they’ve built and being separated from their families.”

The pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute hailed Trump’s choice of Puzder, saying he “understands that the key to economic growth and rising wages is empowering business to increase productivity, not artificial, government-imposed wage and hour mandates.”

Paul Blumenthal contributed reporting.

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