On 15 February 2017, fast food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination to serve as Labor Secretary for U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, amid growing bipartisan opposition:

According to the Washington Post, Puzder’s nomination was opposed by, at a minimum, twelve Republican Party senators. Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) said in a statement that he was initially “impressed” by Puzder after meeting with him. However, Scott said, that opinion changed. His statement read:

As revelations regarding paying employees in cash, illegal immigration, and comments regarding some of the American workforce came to light, I developed serious concerns regarding his nomination. Over the past few days, I shared those concerns with Senate leadership and Chairman [Lamar] Alexander.

Puzder also faced criticism from Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who sent him a 28-page letter accusing him of displaying a “sneering contempt” for his employees:

My staff’s review of your 16-year tenure as CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc….reveals that you’ve made your fortune by squeezing the very workers you’d be charged with protecting as Labor Secretary out of wages and benefits. Your company’s record of prolific labor law abuses and discrimination suits — the most of any major burger chain — gives me great pause given that as Labor Secretary you’d be charged with enforcing these very laws.

Puzder’s confirmation hearing had been scheduled for 16 February 2017, the day after his withdrawal. He had already promised to divest himself of his stake in CKE Restaurants Inc. (the parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardees fast food chains) if confirmed. His announcement came the same day as reports that he was a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in 2004 by former CKE executive Caroline Leakan.

Leakan said in the lawsuit that Puzder “made it a habit of reaching down to his genitals and ‘adjusting himself'” in front of her. She also accused Puzder of stating he wanted to take her to Mexico to “help her relax.”

The company subsequently settled that lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, but CKE was also sued in a class-action lawsuit on 8 February 2017, over alleged wage-fixing by restaurant franchisees.

Puzder’s nomination already faced opposition from labor activists because he is against the idea of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The “Fight for $15” campaign released a statement quoting a CKE employee, Darin Brooks, who called Puzder’s withdrawal a “major victory.” That statement read, in part:

When Donald Trump first tapped Andy Puzder to be labor secretary, fast-food workers told the President that if he sided with fast-food CEOs instead of fast-food workers, he’d be on the wrong side of history. We rallied outside Puzder’s stores nationwide and showed America how his burger empire was built on low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment and intimidation. And today, we are on the right side of history.

Besides serving as an economic advisor to Trump’s presidential campaign, Puzder and his wife Deanna contributed $332,000 to fundraising committees as well as the Republican National Committee. In 1989, Puzder and an anti-abortion activist in Missouri co-wrote a state law stating that “the life of each human being begins at conception.” The law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989.

Puzder thanked Trump for nominating him to lead the Labor Department in a short statement, adding, “While I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team.”

Sources:

Marte, Jonnelle and O’Keefe, Ed. “Andrew Puzder withdraws nomination for labor secretary.” The Washington Post. 15 February 2017.

Puzzanghera, Tim. “Elizabeth Warren zeroes in on Labor nominee Puzder, saying he has ‘sneering contempt’ for workers.” The Los Angeles Times. 13 February 2017.

Scheiber, Noam. “Trump’s Labor Pick, Andrew Puzder, Is Critic of Minimum Wage Increases.” The New York Times. 8 December 2016.

Levintova, Hannah. “Trump’s Labor Secretary Pick Tried to Overturn Roe v. Wade. He Almost Succeeded.” Mother Jones. 8 December 2016.

Urevich, Robin. “Labor Secretary Nominee Puzder Sexually Harassed Senior CKE Female Executive, 2004 Lawsuit Alleged.” Capital & Main. 15 February 2017.

Dayen, David. “Labor Pick Andy Puzder is Already in Jeopardy. Now He’s Being Sued for Wage-Fixing.” The Intercept. 15 February 2017.