A restaurant executive who has opposed higher minimum wages is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Labor.
A multimillionaire campaign donor whose family owns World Wrestling Entertainment is tapped to head the U.S. Small Business Administration.
While generating applause from some business organizations, both nominations are catching fire from groups that represent workers and small businesses.
The National Retail Federation, which represents restaurant owners, said it welcomed the appointment of Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, as labor secretary. He has the “real-world experience to understand workforce issues and how jobs are created,” said the federation’s senior vice president, David French.
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Puzder, who leads the parent company of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr. and Green Burrito, also earned backing from the International Franchise Association. The franchiser group endorsed Puzder’s stance against the current Labor Department’s proposed changes to federal overtime rules.
The changes, which intended to expand overtime eligibility to millions more workers, were to have gone into effect Dec. 1 but were put on hold by a judicial injunction.
Puzder’s endorsements were countered by outpourings from the National Partnership for Women & Families, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Employment Law Project and the Patriotic Millionaires, among other worker-oriented groups.
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said Puzder was an “appalling” choice who would roll back decades of advances that have made American workplaces “more fair and family friendly.”
Christine Owens, executive director of National Employment Law Project, said, “Puzder’s got his fellow CEOs’ backs, even if it breaks the backs of those at the bottom” and that his qualifications were “anathema to what a secretary of labor should stand for.”
Puzder has been outspoken against the Fight for $15 labor movement and the Affordable Care Act. Fight for $15 organizers said the labor movement “doesn’t intend to back down for one minute,” but political observers said wage-raise actions will face stiff challenges in a Trump administration.
A lower-profile appointment, that of business owner Linda McMahon to lead the Small Business Administration, also drew quick reaction. McMahon and her husband, big contributors to the Trump campaign, co-founded WWE, a company that carries a market capitalization of $1.5 billion. Her personal wealth is estimated at $84 million in WWE stock.
The Main Street Alliance, a network of small-business coalitions, charged that McMahon “is out of touch with real small-business owners” whom she will be tasked with assisting. The Small Business Administration oversees a small-business loan portfolio of $124 billion and provides other counseling and assistance programs for small businesses.
McMahon unsuccessfully ran in 2010 and 2012 for a congressional seat in Connecticut.