Picking the New Secretary of Labor: A Backgrounder on Andrew Puzder

Maia Usui

Maia Usui is a student at Harvard Law School.

President-elect Donald Trump met this weekend with Andrew Puzder, one of his rumored candidates for Secretary of Labor.  Like Trump, Puzder is a Washington outsider: he’s the longtime CEO of CKE Restaurants, the company that owns fast-food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s, Jr.  Puzder has been one of Trump’s staunchest supporters — advising him and fundraising for him on the campaign trail — as well as an outspoken critic of the Obama administration.  On his personal blog and elsewhere, Puzder has made no secret of his pro-business stance on labor issues.  Here’s what we know.
Minimum Wage
As The Atlantic reports, Puzder has voiced strong opposition to a higher minimum wage.  He has argued (more than once) that raising the minimum wage and mandating benefits (like paid leave and health insurance) will end up hurting workers, predicting that businesses will respond to higher labor costs with “price increases, more efficient labor management, and automation.”  (He himself has decided to invest in automation at Carl’s, Jr. restaurants, replacing workers with machines because “[machines] never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”)  
Puzder has also taken aim at government benefits.  His proposed solution to sluggish job growth is “more work, less welfare” — according to him, programs like SNAP and Medicaid have distorted incentives, creating a “welfare cliff” that discourages low-income workers from working more for fear of losing their benefits.
Puzder has also complained about Obamacare’s impact on the economy, claiming that Americans are spending less because of higher health insurance premiums.

And Puzder has been critical of the Obama administration’s stance on a range of other issues relating to labor and employment.
Puzder has opposed the Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rule (which would guarantee overtime pay to salaried workers making less than $47k a year), arguing that treating entry-level managers as “hourly” workers will prevent them from realizing their full career potential — through “an increased sense of ownership” — and “achiev[ing] the American Dream.”
Meanwhile, Puzder has also criticized the National Labor Relations Board for its decision to treat franchisors as joint employers of their franchisees’ employees.  He warns that the Board’s decision will undermine the franchise business model — an important source of jobs — to the detriment of the U.S. economy.

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