Donald Trump picks fast food executive Andy Puzder as labour secretary; unions up in arms

Washington: US President-elect Donald Trump has picked fast-food executive Andy Puzder as his labour secretary, a move that drew sharp criticism from labour rights groups that dubbed the choice as "appalling".

"Andy Puzder has created and boosted the careers of thousands of Americans, and his extensive record fighting for workers makes him the ideal candidate to lead the Department of Labour," Trump said.

"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," said the 70-year-old President-elect.

Puzder said he is looking forward to the opportunity to help Trump restore America's global economic leadership.

"The President-elect believes, as do I, that the right government policies can result in more jobs and better wages for the American worker," he said.

 Donald Trump picks fast food executive Andy Puzder as labour secretary; unions up in arms

File photo of US President- elect Donald Trump. AP

Puzder was raised in a working class community in Cleveland, Ohio. Son of a car salesman, he earned his way through school while supporting his family by working in construction, landscaping and painting houses.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Cleveland State University, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college, and a law degree from the Washington University.

From 1978 through 1991, Puzder was a trial lawyer in St.Louis, Missouri, before entering private practice in California.

In 1995, Puzder served as the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Fidelity National Financial Inc, managing one of the largest corporate legal departments in the country.

In 1997, he was named Executive Vice President and General Counsel for CKE Restaurants, and in 2000, he became president and CEO of CKE Restaurants.

Puzder is credited with turning around both the Hardee's brand and CKE, allowing the company to survive.

It is now a quick-service food organisation that owns or franchises more than 3,750 restaurants in the US and around the world, generates $1.4 billion in annual revenue and with its franchises employs more than 75,000 people in America.

In 2010, Puzder co-wrote the book Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn't Understand It, in which he helped provide a framework for instilling strong optimism among US businesses that will create millions of new jobs. However, Labor unions were quick to oppose his nomination.

"Andrew Puzder is an appalling choice to serve as US Secretary of Labour -- a stunning and unwelcome departure from the dedicated and powerful champions who have held that post in recent years, and who have helped advance policies like fair pay, paid sick days and paid family and medical leave that are critical to the well-being of workers and families, businesses and our economy," said Debra L Ness, president, National Partnership for Women and Families.

"The expected Puzder nomination betrays America's workers, especially women and people of color whose rights he has worked to erode," Ness said.

She alleged that as the CEO of CKE Restaurants -- parent company of Carl's Jr and other fast food restaurants -- Puzder has been a strident opponent of the overtime rule, which would stop an egregious form of worker abuse by finally ending the days when people who work long hours for poverty wages do not receive overtime pay.

"He opposes federal increases to the minimum wage and has harshly criticised the Affordable Care Act -- the greatest advance for women's health in a generation. As a Missouri lawyer, Puzder was an architect of legislation to dismantle Roe vs Wade and deny women access to abortion care," she said.

"As a fast food industry executive, Puzder has said machines replacing workers could be a solution to rising wages, and he opposes a host of essential and long overdue advances that would make our country’s workplaces more fair and family friendly, such as paid sick days and paid leave," she added.

Amanda Ballantyne, Main Street Alliance national director, said the selection of Andrew Puzder to head the Labour Department is a "callous disregard" for the small businesses on main street who look to regulation to level the playing field with large corporations like Hardee's and Carl's Jr.

US Senator Johnny Isakson, who serves as Chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Labour, however, said he is pleased to see that Trump is drawing from his own experience in business to nominate a qualified, successful businessman and job creator to become the next labour secretary.

As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on labour, Isakson has led the fight against numerous Labour Department regulations including the so-called "fiduciary rule" that restricts workers' access to retirement savings advice and the "overtime rule" that will force small businesses to cut jobs or reduce salaries and could deprive middle class workers of the chance to negotiate flexible work schedules.

"By choosing a Secretary of Labour who opposes overtime pay and raising the minimum wage sends a clear signal about what the incoming Administration has in store for working families in our country," said Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader.

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Updated Date: Dec 09, 2016 13:14:59 IST