Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, who opposes raising the federal minimum wage and "has championed every aspect of right-wing trickle-down economics," is expected to be President-elect Donald Trump's pick for labor secretary, news outlets reported Thursday.
Puzder is the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which includes the burger chains Hardee's and Carl's Jr. among its brands. He advised and fundraised for Trump during his presidential campaign, and reportedly told a Fox Business news anchor shortly before the election that serving in a Trump administration would be "the most fun you could have with your clothes on."
"Puzder's got his fellow CEOs' backs, even if it breaks the backs of those at the bottom."
—Christine Owens, National Employment Law Project
In fact, Patriotic Millionaire Fred Rotondaro wrote in a recent blog post: "Puzder is a minor league version of Trump: the stereotype of a loud talking business leader convinced he has done everything on his own and knows what he knows with absolute certitude. There are no shades in his business style."
His appointment to head the Department of Labor, The American Prospect warned on Thursday, "will give the regulation-averse corporate lobby yet another fierce ally in Trump's White House."
As such, the reaction from organized labor and worker advocacy groups was swift—and fierce.
SEIU International president Mary Kay Henry said Puzder's intended nomination exposes Trump as "out-of-touch...with what working Americans need."
"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," Henry said. "In 2012, Puzder made $4.4 million, a full 291 times more than the average food worker. He doesn't support measures that would help families who work hard build a better life, such as the overtime rule, which would put more money in the pockets of millions of workers for the extra work they do. He wants machines to replace workers because robots 'never take a vacation'—even though robots can not ever replace the work that people do. He has stood with Republican congressional leaders who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act—even though his underpaid workers and millions of working Americans depend on it for healthcare."
Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, put it even more bluntly: "[B]ased 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," she said.
"After a long campaign of promising to return prosperity and good jobs to struggling families, this pick makes it clear that Trump won't drain the swamp—he'll fill it with worse and worse kinds of slime."
—Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
"This much is clear," Owens continued. "Puzder will be there for his low-wage-industry CEO buddies, who are now salivating over the prospect of rolling back the Obama administration's efforts to raise pay for low-wage workers, improve workplace safety, and increase corporate accountability for wage theft and other violations. Puzder's got his fellow CEOs' backs, even if it breaks the backs of those at the bottom."
In a statement from the Fight for $15 movement, Carl's Jr. cook Rogelio Hernandez from Santa Monica, California and Hardee's cashier Lacretia Jones from Richmond, Virginia, spoke from experience—while vowing to keep up their struggle:
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, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination. Instead of taking on the rigged economy, it seems like Trump wants to rig it up even more. Puzder is paid more in one day than we each make in one year working at his restaurant chains, and that's the way he wants to keep it. Puzder is against unions, calls the minimum wage and overtime 'restrictions' and employees 'extra cost,' and even said he wants to fire workers like us and replace us with machines that can't take vacations or sue their employers when they break the law. It doesn't matter who the labor secretary is, the Fight for $15 won't back down for one minute in our demands for $15 an hour and union rights for all workers. If Trump is going to be a President for the fast food corporations instead of for the fast food workers he is going to be on the wrong side of history.
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten also said the selection of Puzder highlighted Trump's hypocrisy:
Donald Trump promised repeatedly to stand up for the little guy, to fight for working families, to create good jobs and a booming economy. By picking Andrew Puzder to be secretary of labor, the president-elect makes a mockery of those promises and puts the Department of Labor—which was created to help workers—squarely in the hands of the titans of corporate America.
[...] Considering Trump’s own record—buying cheap, overseas steel and aluminum for his properties and putting Americans out of work; saying wages are 'too high'; fighting tooth and nail to stop his workers in Las Vegas from forming a union; stiffing small-business owners; and pledging to take healthcare from 20 million Americans by repealing the ACA—it's clear that he and Puzder are cut from the same cloth.
While this comes as no surprise, it is deeply disappointing. After a long campaign of promising to return prosperity and good jobs to struggling families, this pick makes it clear that Trump won't drain the swamp—he'll fill it with worse and worse kinds of slime.
And the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights described Puzder as "anti-family, anti-worker, and anti-jobs."
"This man is an opponent of jobs that make America great and put food on the table," said the coalition's president and CEO Wade Henderson. "He opposes fair wages, he opposes overtime pay, he opposes sick days, and he opposes health care benefits—all of which have a great impact on working class families, communities of color, and women."
As Fight for $15 organizing Kendall Fells told The Prospect: "Puzder as labor secretary is like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the treasury. Does it really make America great again if it pushes more low-wage workers into poverty?"
Meanwhile, the New York Times noted that Trump's choice of Puzder "may raise questions anew about his attitude toward women," given negative responses to "racy" advertisements for Puzder's Carl's Jr. burger chain.
"I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American," Puzder said in a 2015 interview with Entrepreneur magazine.
Additional reactions poured in on social media, including under the hashtag #AntiLaborSecretary:
with Puzder's appointment it's not even a swamp anymore, but a steaming cesspool of crony capitalism.
— Simon Schama (@simon_schama) December 8, 2016
Puzder, anti-labor CEO to be labor secretary. Wonder how long it will take for blue collar trump voters to realize they've been had.
— Lawrence M. Krauss (@LKrauss1) December 8, 2016
As Labor Sec, Puzder will be responsible for investigating wage theft
His Hardee’s & Carl’s Jr. restaurants frequently stole from workers pic.twitter.com/oqkXNYFqTw
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) December 8, 2016
— Feminist Majority (@FemMajority) December 8, 2016
— Keith Dromm (@KeithDromm) December 8, 2016
— Demos (@Demos_Org) December 8, 2016
Trump is not wasting any time in launching the next round of GOP attacks on workers. #AntiLaborSecretary
— Josh Dorner (@JoshDorner) December 8, 2016