DOL Secretary Nominee Draws Praise, Disapproval

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By Rhonda Smith

Dec. 8 — Andrew Puzder, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, would likely defend policies that businesses generally favor and leave workers to fend for themselves, his supporters and opponents said.

“If he’s nominated and confirmed, he’ll strike the right balance between regulations, which are necessary and meet the needs of employees and employers in the current economy, rather than taking a draconian approach that attempts to create economic growth through regulatory fiat, which is what we’ve seen in the current administration,” Matt Haller, senior vice president of government relations and public affairs for the International Franchise Association, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 8.

Puzder, chief executive of privately held CKE Restaurants, is a member of the IFA’s 39-member board of directors.

The California-based enterprise is composed of 3,750 franchised and CKE-operated restaurants in 44 states and 40 countries abroad. They operate under the brands of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., Green Burrito and Red Burrito.

In addition to the IFA, the American Enterprise Institute, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Restaurant Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association praised Puzder.

“Many NFIB members are franchisees, a business model that was under attack during the Obama administration,” that organization said Dec. 8. “Andy Puzder understands how these actions and other labor regulations directly harm American entrepreneurs and family businesses.”

Organizations that lobby for low-wage workers shared a different view.

“Throughout his career, Andrew Puzder has shown he does not believe in the dignity of all work and has used his position to line his own pockets at the expense of workers,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a Dec. 8 statement.

The SEIU is a key supporter of the Fight for $15 movement, which was launched in 2012 to boost the wages of fast-food workers in New York City and subsequently expanded to include low-wage workers in other industries. No U.S. fast-food workers are unionized.

“In 2012, Puzder made $4.4 million, a full 291 times more than the average food worker,” Henry said. “He doesn’t support measures that would help families who work hard to build a better life.”

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said during a press conference call Dec. 8 that Puzder opposes raising the federal minimum wage, which currently is $7.25 per hour, and is against raising the overtime threshold to help middle-wage salary workers.

“It really is like giving the keys to the henhouse to the fox,” she said.

Other organizations that oppose Puzder’s being appointed labor secretary include the AFL-CIO, the labor federation that represents 55 unions, the Economic Policy Institute, National Partnership of Women and Families, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and Communication Workers of America.

Haller at the IFA described Puzder, a former trial lawyer, as “extremely cooperative” and “articulate about a variety of public policy issues.”

“He will bring a combative approach to people who challenge him,” he said, “but also a collaborative approach geared toward a sensible balance between regulations and economic growth, which the country needs.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rhonda Smith in Washington at rsmith@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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