Trump's Rumored Labor Secretary Wants An "Employee-Free" Restaurant

December 8th 2016

Lucy Tiven

President-elect Donald Trump's prospective cabinet is already cluttered with controversial characters, and his rumored choice for labor secretary is no exception.

Andrew Puzder at 2016 FreedomFest

Trump is expected to tap CKE Restaurants Holdings chief executive Andy Puzder, who advised him during the campaign, to head the Department of Labor, sources informed on the decision told the Wall Street Journal Thursday.

In his post heading the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s parent company, Puzder outspokenly opposed raising the minimum wage.

Puzder argued raising the minimum wage would be too costly and prompt employers to "cut jobs and rely more on technology," in a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed.

“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," the Fight for 15 movement said in a press release.

carl's jr tray

“As a fast food CEO, Andrew Puzder made it his business to generate profits by exploiting the workers in his restaurants, where he paid poverty wages," Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of the anti-poverty organization Oxfam America, said in a statement. "On the national stage, he’s taken strident stands against raising the minimum wage and expanding overtime pay coverage. Mr. Puzder would have the power to rewrite the rules of the game for people in every facet of work; as a corporate lawyer by trade, Mr. Puzder knows exactly how to get this done."

Puzder's recently expressed keen interest in automation: replacing fast-food workers with technology.

"I want to try it," Puzder told Business Insider in March. He spoke enthusiastically about the prospect of opening a restaurant where "you never see a person."

"If you're making labor more expensive, and automation less expensive — this is not rocket science," he added.

self checkout line

As Gawker's Hamilton Nolan wrote in response to Puzder's March comments, automation would leave millions of workers scrambling to afford the cost of living – a problem that could be mitigated if the government also provided a universal basic income.

However, Puzder has not expressed an interest in providing basic income, so the automated economy he envisions poses severe threats to workers' livelihoods.

"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," the Fight for 15 adds.

Women's groups aren't thrilled with him either.

National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness calls Puzder "an appalling choice to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor." During his tenure a CKE, Puzder also opposed the overtime rule, paid leave, and Affordable Care Act, which Ness deems "the greatest advance for women’s health in a generation."

"As a Missouri lawyer, Puzder was an architect of legislation to dismantle Roe v. Wade and deny women access to abortion care," Ness adds.

While generally opposing reproductive rights, Puzder has defended the practice of using women's bodies to sell fast food products. 

“I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis," the executive told the magazine Entrepreneur in 2015, addressing a controversial Carl's Jr ad campaign.

"I think it's very American. … I used to hear [that] brands take on the personality of the CEO. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality."

Trump and Puzder disagree in some respects. 

In July, he asserted in the Wall Street Journal that illegal immigrants should only be deported when a person has "committed a felony or become a ‘public charge.'" Yet, he minimized differences between his position and Trump's immigration proposals — which he called "reasonable and sensible given that voters demand action."

Before he can assume his post, Puzder will need to complete the Senate confirmation process, one that Democrats and labor unions have already promised to make contentious