CKE Restaurants CEO Picked as Labor Secretary

The immediate speculation is that Andrew Puzder, if confirmed, will abandon the Department of Labor's rule that would raise the salary threshold for eligibility for overtime. A federal judge enjoined DOL from enforcing it as planned Dec. 1, 2016, and the Obama administration then appealed that injunction.

Continuing to move quickly on naming his choices for executive departments and some cabinet positions, President-elect Donald J. Trump's team announced Dec. 8 that he has chosen Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., to be the next secretary of Labor. The immediate speculation when Puzder's selection became known was that he will, if confirmed, abandon the overtime rule proposed by the Obama administration and the current Labor secretary, Tom Perez.

CKE Restaurants is based in Carpinteria, Calif. It owns owns, operates, and franchises quick-service restaurants, including the Carl's Jr.®, Hardee's®, Green Burrito®, and Red Burrito® restaurant brands.

Puzder is a lawyer. He was a commercial trial lawyer in St. Louis from 1978 through 1991 and during that period met Carl Karcher, the founder of the Carl's Jr. chain, according to the bio of Puzder available on the CKE website. "Karcher was embroiled in serious financial difficulties and asked Puzder to move to California as his personal attorney. In 1991, Puzder relocated to Orange County, Calif. He is credited with resolving Karcher's financial dilemma, allowing Karcher to avoid bankruptcy and retain a significant ownership interest in the company he founded, CKE Restaurants, Inc.," it says, adding that Puzder helped to resolve those financial problems and ultimately became executive vice president and general counsel for CKE in 1997. The company bought Hardee's Food Systems, Inc. that year.

He wrote an op-ed column for Forbes in May 2016 criticizing the overtime rule. "Labor Secretary Tom Perez is promoting it as a means to increase middle-class wages claiming that 'the overtime rule could… help millions of workers get back into the middle class.' As with the Obama Administration's other efforts to regulate their way to economic prosperity, it will not deliver as promised," Puzder wrote. He predicted the rule would force some businesses to turn entry-level management careers with salaries and performance-based bonuses into hourly jobs. "For most businesses it will be just another added regulatory cost they must look to offset. For their employees, it will be another barrier to the middle class rather than a springboard. One can only wonder when the advocates of progressive economics will realize that, despite their best efforts, you cannot regulate your way to economic prosperity," he wrote.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, known as National COSH, issued a statement directed to the nominee. "President-elect Trump has identified protecting U.S. jobs as one of his top priorities," said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH. "We believe safety on the job is also crucial, so that every worker can go home safely at the end of his or her shift. If Andrew Puzder is nominated as secretary of labor, it’s important that Americans hear about his plans to reduce workplaces illnesses, injuries and fatalities."

"If Mr. Puzder is nominated as secretary of labor, we'd like to hear what he's learned about workplace safety during his tenure in the fast food industry," said National COSH Co-director Jessica Martinez, who serves on NACOSH, the national advisory committee for OSHA.

The proposed overtime rule would raise the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455 per week to $913 ($47,476 per year) and automatically update the salary threshold every three years based on wage growth over time. The current secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, and his agency intended for it to take effect Dec. 1, 2016, but a federal judge enjoined DOL from enforcing it on that date; the Obama administration has appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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