WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump has selected fast-food executive Andy Puzder to run the Labor Department, which oversees OSHA, enforces wage rules and manages guest-worker programs on which many farms and others in the food industry rely.
Trump said Puzder “will fight to make American workers safer and more prosperous … and he will save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages.”
Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. burger chains,
Craig Regelbrugge, former co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, said Puzder’s nomination was a good sign that industry will see fewer regulations and streamlined guest worker programs. The nomination would “appear positive for those hopeful for DOL-related regulatory relief and process streamlining,” Regelbrugge said in an email.
Puzder has argued for the need for low-skilled immigrant workers in his industry and others. During a 2013 appearance with the American Enterprise Institute, Puzder said that immigrant workers “always have the thank-God-I-have-this-job attitude.”
He was a strong supporter of the Senate’s 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have offered illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and expanded access to low-skilled guest workers.
His one gripe about the bill was the amount of spending it would have devoted to border security, a central priority of the Trump campaign. “I don’t know when it became a conservative Republican principle that increasing the size and intrusiveness of government was a good thing,” Puzder said at the 2013 forum.
One issue that will give some in agriculture pause is that he supports the E-Verify system and says it has helped ensure that workers in his restaurants are legal. Growers have been fighting mandatory E-Verify bills in Congress, saying they won’t be able to hire enough legal workers until Congress acts on broader immigration reform. There are also differences in the restaurant industry over E-Verify.
Puzder said in 2013 that prior to his company’s use of E-Verify many of its managers would disappear when word got out that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was coming to inspect a restaurant.
Puzder hasn’t been so supportive of menu labeling. In a 2011 interview, he said that he didn’t like the menu labeling requirement that Congress enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act. He said the labeling rule was a “nanny-state” regulation “designed to solve a problem that isn't really a problem at all.”
The FDA, not the Labor Department, is responsible for the menu labeling rule, which will be enforced nationwide next year.
Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said Puzder will bring “much-needed business experience to the Department of Labor. He has a proven track record of turning around businesses, and his background in the restaurant industry will help foster an environment for job creation.”