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Picked for Labor, Puzder Called Government 'Coercion' too Heavy


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Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, is expected to be President-elect Trump's choice for U.S. secretary of labor.

Joe Veen

 “The weight of government coercion has become so heavy, it is no longer possible to ignore,” declared Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, who was said to be picked today to be secretary of labor by President-elect Donald Trump.

We didn’t have to go far to learn his views, because Puzder was a keynote speaker last month at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, presented by FT’s sister publication. There he said the above and much more, demonstrating his anti-regulation, pro-job- creator bona fides that he has also regularly penned in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

The expected choice was immediately praised by the International Franchise Association, which noted that Puzder believes in franchising—CKE operates 3,750 franchised or company-owned Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants in 44 states and 40 foreign countries. Puzder is an “exceptional choice” for U.S. secretary of labor, the IFA’s statement said, with a “proven track record for creating jobs, growing a business and opening a pathway for people to create a successful career and even business ownership.” The IFA hopes Puzder, if confirmed, and the Trump administration would roll back the National Labor Relations Board’s attempts to hold franchisors jointly liable along with their franchisees for alleged wage and hour violations.

A staunch opponent of mandated minimum wage increases, the new federal overtime rules just put on hold by a federal judge, and especially of Obamacare, Puzder blasted the last seven years of economic policies, which he said have led to anemic growth.

“GDP is set to grow about 1.5 percent this year, which is dangerously close to the recession era,” Puzder told the crowd of 2,800 restaurant and finance heavy-hitters at the conference, presented by the Restaurant Finance Monitor.

“We have a government-mandated restaurant recession,” he said. “The government did not intend this result. But it shows what happens when government tries to manipulate the economy.”

His most compelling statement during his keynote speech was this: “You cannot mandate the benefits of economic growth”—meaning higher wages and better benefits for workers— “without actual economic growth.”

The Twitterati immediately jumped on Puzder, with Salon, for one, saying Puzder “makes 300 times his employees” but opposes a minimum wage hike.

Puzder was a close adviser to CKE’s late founder, Carl Karcher—known as the Ray Kroc of the West Coast—and became CEO of CKE 16 years ago. Carl’s Jr. posted systemwide sales of $1.84 billion last year, and Hardee’s posted $2.51 billion, according to Franchise Times Top 200+, a ranking of the largest U.S.-based franchise systems.

 “I’ve dealt with numerous challenges,” during his tenure, Puzder said. “One of the biggest was to turn the Hardee’s brand around, to avoid bankruptcy and start growing the brand. While that was a challenge, I knew what was wrong,” he said.

“Today, the situation is different. I don’t know if we could have turned Hardee’s around today,” he said, citing “federal, state and local governments that seem intent on punishing us for simply being in business and trying to make a profit.”

Puzder and CKE were in the pages of Franchise Times this year after a dispute with one of Karcher’s grandsons, Jason LeVecke, who declared bankruptcy and was forced out of the brand last spring, and who then criticized Puzder’s leadership and CKE’s ad campaigns in open letters.

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is staff writer at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner.
 

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