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Trump Picks Fast-Food CEO Andy Puzder for Labor Secretary

by Countable | 1.4.17

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated restaurant-company CEO Andy Puzder to head the Department of Labor. In announcing the pick, Trump said that Puzder "has created and boosted the careers of thousands of Americans" and that “his extensive record fighting for workers makes him the ideal candidate.”

Who is Andy Puzder?

Puzder, 66, heads CKE Restaurants, which is the parent company of the popular fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he dropped out of Kent State University after the fatal campus shooting of four students by the National Guard during an antiwar protest in 1970. His new plan? To become a rock star.

He got as far as working in a guitar studio before transferring to Cleveland State University, which granted him a B.A. in history in 1975. He went on to earn a law degree three years later from Washington University in St. Louis and over the next two decades honed a reputation as a leading anti-abortion lawyer. He was instrumental in the writing and enactment of a state law defining life as beginning at conception.

In 1991, Puzder took on a new client, CKE founder Carl Karcher, then under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission. Puzder helped Karcher out of his legal difficulties and later moved to California to become his personal attorney. In 1997, Karcher named him CKE’s executive vice president and general counsel, and Puzder became the CEO three years later during a financial low for the company, which had just expanded by purchasing the then-struggling Hardee’s.

Puzder, who has six children and six grandchildren, lives in Franklin, Tenn., 21 miles north of Nashville, future home to CKE’s new headquarters. Except for an outpost in Anaheim, the company plans to close its California and Missouri offices.

What’s the outlook for his confirmation?

If Puzder is confirmed, it just might be by the slimmest of margins. The Democrats are expected to push hard against a man they see as a vocal opponent of not only the movement to raise the minimum wage nationally but also of the rule put in place by the Obama administration requiring overtime pay for salaried workers making less than $47,500 a year. These regulations, Puzder has said, would leave him little choice but to fully automate his restaurants, which would put out of work the more than 75,000 people employed directly by CKE or through its franchises.

And the Democrats might find some allies across the aisle on this pick, for Puzder’s views on immigration are at odds with those of many in the GOP, including the man who nominated him. As a specialist in low-wage jobs for low-skilled workers, Puzder has advocated for mass immigration and protections to keep undocumented workers in the U.S., which is not a widely held view among Republicans.

His nomination may also face challenges on the basis of his anti-abortion activities, his ex-wife’s claims of spousal abuse (later recanted), and his defense of restaurant ads featuring scantily clad models despite criticism that they demean women.

What does the Department of Labor do?

The Department of Labor is responsible for assisting job seekers, employed workers and retirees by improving job-training and employment programs, supporting and strengthening laws to protect workers and safeguarding a post-retirement safety net. It has more than 17,000 employees and in Fiscal Year 2015 had a budget of $11.8 billion.

Among the agencies under its umbrella are the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, and the Women’s Bureau, whose demands for equality in the workplace, including equal wages, trace back to two months before American women gained the right to vote in 1920.

— Erin Wright

(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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