President-elect Trump is expected to name fast-food CEO Andy Puzder as his nominee for Labor secretary, according to anonymously sourced reports from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and others.
Puzder is chief executive of CKE restaurants, the parent company of the Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., La Salsa, and Green Burrito chains. He is an outspoken critic of “Fight for 15”, a nationwide movement to increase the minimum wage to $15. He said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show in April that such a move would hurt Fortune 500 retailers and the low-skill workers they employ.
“So you actually go from a situation where you’ve got a business that can survive and that has economic strength, to a business that you really can’t run, you really can’t hire people, and you can’t offset these costs of this magnitude with pricing, even if there was meaningful inflation, which we don’t have,” he said of a hypothetical wage increase to $15. He’s similarly critical of raising the federal minimum wage to $9, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In March, Puzder mused in an interview with Business Insider about the possibility of replacing the same low-skill workers in a fully automated restaurant.
“They’re 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,” he said of the robots who might run his restaurants in the future.
Puzder also places blame for the so-called “restaurant recession,” which posits that low and middle class people have spent less money at restaurants due to higher health care premiums, on the Affordable Care Act.
Asked by Entrepreneur magazine in 2015 about a hallmark of one of his restaurants, Carl’s Jr., which frequently runs ads featuring models and celebrities like Charlotte McKinney eating burgers while wearing bikinis, Puzder was unapologetic.
“I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” he said. “I used to hear, 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.”