President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate Andrew Puzder, chief executive of the company that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. burger chains, as labor secretary, according to people familiar with the plans.
Puzder, who served as an economic adviser to Trump during the campaign, is a critic of the Obama administration’s labor policies, particularly the president’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
The Trump transition team is expected to announce the nomination, which is subject to Senate confirmation, as soon as Thursday. Puzder, 66, is CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., parent company of the fast-food brands. Puzder is a graduate of Washington University Law School and was a trial attorney in St. Louis before joining CKE in 2000. He was also an economic adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The selection of Puzder sheds light on what direction the Labor Department might take under Trump. Puzder has a long record of spoken and written remarks on job creation. He has said he opposes an Obama administration rule that would expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. The rule, which would affect about 4.2 million workers, was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in November. Puzder also opposes efforts to raise the minimum wage.
Puzder has said Obama’s health-care overhaul hurt his company’s growth and forced it to rely more on part-time workers. Some Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. locations also are shifting to touch-screen kiosks. Those stores need fewer employees behind the counter, Puzder said, a move made desirable by what he called ill-advised government policies and taxes.
In an interview in September, Puzder decried the U.S. labor participation rate, which has been falling steadily since peaking at 67.3 percent in 2000. It was 62.7 percent in November even as the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent. He said there’s a need for employment opportunities at the low end and high end.
“Low-skill jobs are important because that’s what gives you access to the high-level jobs,” he said. “If you focus on redistributing income, you’re not going to create growth.”
CKE, a closely held company based in Carpinteria, California, has about 3,700 restaurants across most U.S. states and 28 countries. The chain filed for an initial public offering in 2012, but later delayed the move, citing uncertainty about health-care and commodity prices. The company is relocating its headquarters from the beach-side town about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Los Angeles to the lower-cost Nashville, Tennessee, area – a move that’s expected to be completed in 2017.