President Donald Trump chose an energy secretary who once called for the Energy Department’s abolition, an education secretary who lacks faith in public schools, and a head of environmental protection who has repeatedly sued the agency he will now oversee.
It is only fitting then that Trump’s pick for the key post of labor secretary, whose agency “monitors, stimulates, and alleviates the quality of life of working individuals,” would be widely seen as antilabor.
Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants – the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s – is a vocal opponent of raising the minimum wage and of the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the policies result in lower employment rates. He has been pro-immigration in the past, and he is pro-automation.
He is facing criticism from the left and the right. And now CNN is reporting that Senate Republicans have urged the White House to pull his nomination.
Puzder, whose confirmation hearing before a Senate committee is set for Thursday, is a big fan of automation. He told Business Insider last year that fast-food workers could be replaced with kiosks and other automated technology to offset the cost of wages.
“I want to try it,” Puzder said of automated restaurants. “With government driving up the cost of labor, it’s driving down the number of jobs.”
The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington, says it is deeply concerned by Puzder’s nomination.
“At his hearing, committee members should demand an explanation for Puzder’s many public statements about labor laws – and his record of violating those laws – that make a mockery of the Department of Labor’s mission to improve the wages and working conditions of working and to defend their rights at work,” said EPI economist and former Labor Department official Heidi Shierholz.
It’s not just liberals. The conservative National Review has come out against Puzder’s nomination. It thinks he is too pro-immigration.
In 2015, Puzder wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the Republican presidential candidates‘ anti-immigration policies.
“The best way to protect American workers is to generate economic growth,” he said. “This is not synonymous with aggressively restricting immigration. Most studies conclude that immigration contributes to economic growth as well as innovation, and research and development.”
Puzder seems to have changed his views since being nominated by Trump. Trump’s transition team reportedly circulated a statement in December in which Puzder said “hire American and buy American is our policy.”
But even if that’s so, the questions won’t stop there. Puzder recently admitted to previously employing a housekeeper who was living in the US illegally, despite the Trump administration’s strong condemnation of illegal immigration.
Politico has reported that Oprah Winfrey provided a tape to senators of both parties showing an old episode of her show in which Puzder’s ex-wife accused Puzder of abuse.
There’s also the question of Carl’s Jr.’s advertising, which, featuring bikini-clad models eating the chain’s hamburgers, have been derided as sexist but which Puzder has defended as “very American.”
At least four Republican senators have concerns about Puzder’s nomination, including because of the Oprah tape, The Washington Post reported this week.
They’ll have a lot to ask about.