Trump Taps Fast Food Exec Andy Puzder for Labor Secretary

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Preparing to make public appearances Thursday in Ohio and Iowa, President-elect Donald Trump nominated restaurant chain executive Andy Puzder to be Labor secretary.

"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, and he will save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages," Trump said.

Pudzer said he and Trump believe "that the right government policies can result in more jobs and better wages for the American worker."

Puzder — the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns the fast food restaurants Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s — also worked as a Trump campaign adviser and is a major critic of what he calls unnecessary federal regulations, including a proposed hike in the federal minimum wage.

Puzder has been a particularly vocal opponent of raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime to more American workers, and implementing the Affordable Care Act, which forces businesses with at least 50 employees to provide health coverage.

Labor unions and Democrats denounced the pick, saying Puzder is much more interested in the rights of management than labor. They pledged a fight during the Senate confirmation process.

Puzder's selection is "the surest sign yet that the next Cabinet will be looking out for the billionaires and special interests, instead of America’s working class," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer also noted that Puzder's businesses "have repeatedly violated labor laws."

A federal judge recently blocked a new Labor Department rule increasing the threshold at which white-collar workers are exempt from overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 while he considers a broader challenge to it. The rule, which was expected to take effect Dec. 1, would have made an additional 4.2 million Americans eligible for overtime pay.

Labor is appealing the judge’s ruling, but Puzder’s appointment could make it more likely the department will drop the appeal.

“While it’s too soon to say what Puzder would do as Labor secretary — if he is confirmed — there is nothing in his record or his public statements to indicate that he would lead in developing policies and enforcement strategies to generate higher wages and better quality jobs for America’s workers,” Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute said in a statement.

Trump himself conducted another set of job interviews Thursday morning before heading to Columbus, Ohio, for a private meeting with victims and first responders to last week's attack at Ohio State University.

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