President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, is getting criticism on his home turf.
The St. Louis native is CEO of the company that owns Hardees and Carl’s Junior, CKE Restaurants.
About 50 protesters gathered outside Hardees headquarters in downtown St. Louis on Thursday, questioning whether the fast food CEO would really represent workers’ interests. They then walked a couple of blocks to stand in front of a Hardees restaurant.
“I really don’t think he’s qualified, and the reason I don’t think he’s qualified is that we need someone that’s thinking of the people,” said protester Betty Douglas.
The 59-year-old said she has worked at McDonalds for ten years and still makes less than $8 an hour. Douglas said she wants a livable wage that will help her support her 16-year-old son.
Puzder, who has been CEO of CKE since 2000, has been a vocal critic of raising the minimum wage to $15 or even up to $10. He’s also an opponent of the Affordable Care Act and efforts by the Obama administration’s recent rule on expanding eligibility for overtime pay.
The International Franchise Association struck back at the St. Louis event, along with protests in other cities organized by the group Fight for $15. Puzder was a member of IFA’s board of directors until he stepped down following his nomination to Labor Secretary.
“These protests really distract form the true record of CKE Restaurants and Andy’s leadership at CKE,” said IFA spokesman Matt Haller, “and frankly the franchise model and what it does to create upward mobility and a pathway to the middle class for people who need it most.”
Haller said the minimum wage debate belongs in Congress but that a $15 hourly minimum would be a “job destroyer.”
Puzder was expected to face the Senate confirmation hearing next week but it could be pushed back until next month because of the heavy Congressional schedule.
Even before Trump’s appointment, Puzder was planning to leave St. Louis.
CKE announced last year that it would move the Hardees headquarters from St. Louis to Nashville early this year.
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