President-elect Donald Trump announced Thursday that he would nominate fast-food executive Andy Puzder for U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Puzder is chief executive of CKE Restaurants, a Carpinteria, California-based company that includes the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains. He was an economic adviser and donor to Trump’s campaign.
“Andy will fight to make American workers safer and more prosperous by enforcing fair occupational safety standards and ensuring workers receive the benefits they deserve,” the president-elect said in a statement, commending Puzder’s “extensive record fighting for workers.”
Puzder said he believes “the right government policies can result in more jobs and better wages for the American worker.”
However, workers’ rights advocates and left-leaning officials denounced him as a threat to achieve higher minimum wages, among other efforts.
Puzder has criticized “overregulation on the restaurant industry,” saying he believes increased labor costs and insurance premiums under Obamacare have hurt the food business.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed in October, he wrote: “The struggling restaurant industry is the canary in the coal mine for the Affordable Care Act’s impact on the broader economy.”
Trump has vowed the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
“Based on Mr. Puzder’s own comments, it’s hard to think of anyone less suited for the job of lifting up America’s forgotten workers — as Trump had campaigned on — than Puzder,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the Manhattan-based National Employment Law Project, adding that he opposes hiking the minimum wage and seeks to automate restaurant workers.
“Putting one of the worst fast-food CEOs in charge of national labor policy sends a signal to workers that the Trump years are going to be about low pay, wage theft,” Carl’s Jr. cook Rogelio Hernandez of Santa Monica, Calif. and Hardee’s cashier Lacretia Jones of Richmond, Va., said in a joint statement on behalf of the national “Fight for $15” minimum wage movement.
UCLA public affairs professor Chris Tilly, an expert in labor and development, said Puzder has “walked somewhat of a complicated line” on raising the minimum wage, certainly opposing a dramatic hike but less vocally opposed to a moderate hike.
Trump left Manhattan in the afternoon to meet in Columbus, Ohio, with victims of the Ohio State University attack that injured 13 and attend a “thank you” rally in Des Moines, Iowa.
He met in the morning with retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who had been vetted by Hillary Clinton’s team as a potential running mate. Stavridis would not tell reporters whether he was being considered for secretary of state or another position, but said he and Trump discussed the military and cyber-security.
Also Thursday, Trump’s transition team officially announced Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pruitt’s expected appointment generated resistance from Democratic elected officials and environmental groups. Pruitt, as attorney general in an oil state, has sued President Barack Obama’s EPA over its climate change policies.
Senior adviser Sean Spicer, in a call with reporters, said, “Mr. Pruitt has been a national leader against President Obama’s job-killing war on coal.”
Spicer added, “He’s going to be intimately involved in the implementation of President-elect Trump’s energy plan, which will move America toward energy independence.”