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Fast-Food Baron, Critic of High Wages, Tapped as Trump's Labor Secretary

  • VOA News

President-elect Donald Trump walks with CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder from Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Andrew Puzder, a wealthy businessman, a lawyer and an elite donor to Trump's campaign, to become the next Labor Secretary, pending Senate confirmation.

Puzder is the head of CKE Restaurants Holdings, the parent company of Carl's Jr., Hardee's fast food restaurants and other chains.

According to the Labor Department's website, the mission of the agency is "to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights."

Critics say Puzder's public comments often do not coincide with Labor's stated mission. He has been highly critical of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and new rules enabling more workers to receive overtime pay.

He is also not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that has provided health insurance to millions who were previously uninsured, and is instead favors repealing the law.

Puzder has expressed his admiration for automated technology that he says business owners will have to turn to if they are forced to pay a substantially increased minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave and health insurance for employees.

He told Business Insider financial news site last year that machines are "always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case."

CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder speaks at a news conference on Aug. 6, 2014 in Austin, Texas to highlight Carl’s Jr.’s commitment to the state of Texas.
CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder speaks at a news conference on Aug. 6, 2014 in Austin, Texas to highlight Carl’s Jr.’s commitment to the state of Texas.

Law practice

While practicing law in St. Louis, Puzder helped write and pass in 1986 the Missouri law declaring life begins at conception, which had the effect of banning most abortions at public facilities. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in 1989 in a decision known as Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services.

There he met Carl Karcher, the founder of Carl’s Jr., who was in serious financial trouble. Karcher asked Puzder to move to California to be his personal attorney. Puzder moved to Orange County, California, and in 1991 resolved Karcher’s financial problems. Puzder went on to lead the company in 2000. The company now has 3,750 locations in 44 states and 40 countries and U.S. territories, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company has about 75,000 employees in the U.S. and almost 100,000 worldwide, with sales topping $4.3 billion.

Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have come under fire for their commercials featuring scantily clad women. "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis," he said. "I think it's very American."

Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Ferguson, left, orders lunch along side CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder after a news conference on Aug. 6, 2014 in Austin, Texas
Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Ferguson, left, orders lunch along side CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder after a news conference on Aug. 6, 2014 in Austin, Texas

Active in politics

Puzder has long been a reliable Republican Party donor. He was a major financier for 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and has remained close to him. At Romney’s annual donor summit in June, Puzder was one of a few attendees who aggressively promoted Trump to the dozens who were more squeamish about their party’s new star.

He was one of Trump’s earliest campaign financiers, serving as a co-chairman of his California finance team and organizing fundraisers well before most major donors got on board with the eventual Republican nominee. Together with his wife, Puzder contributed $150,000 in late May to Trump’s campaign and Republican Party partners, fundraising records show.

He told The Associated Press at the Republican National Convention in late July that he enjoyed the challenge of raising money for Trump, saying he often sought common ground with reluctant Republican Party donors by talking up Trump’s children.

“If he’s such an evil villain,” Puzder said he would tell would-be donors, “how do you explain the kids?”

Puzder has six children and six grandchildren and lives with his second wife, Dee, in Franklin, Tennessee, according to his blog.

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