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Trump Expected To Select Fast Food Magnate Andy Puzder As Labor Secretary

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen a wealthy fast food executive to be his labor secretary. Andrew Puzder heads the company that runs Hardee's and Carl's Jr. restaurants. The hamburger chains employ tens of thousands of mostly low-wage workers. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us to talk about this latest Cabinet pick. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What can you tell us about Andrew Puzder?

HORSLEY: He is a big contributor to Donald Trump's campaign. He's also advised the president-elect on economic policy. And like Trump himself, Puzder is not afraid to be politically incorrect at times. Here he is speaking on Fox Business just a couple of days before the November election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW PUZDER: I got to tell you. I think it would be, you know, the most fun you could have with your clothes on to be in this Cabinet and get things going. It would be an amazing experience.

HORSLEY: Puzder's companies are famous for TV commercials featuring women who don't have a lot of clothes on eating big, juicy hamburgers in a suggestive manner. It's been a pretty good business for him. Puzder made more than $4-and-a-half million back in 2012.

He tells the LA Times the average worker in his fast food outlets makes more than $10 an hour, and he's not against state-level efforts to raise the minimum wage. He has, however, pushed back against a national push for a $15-an-hour minimum.

SHAPIRO: As secretary of labor, he would have the power to enforce labor regulations. How have his restaurants done on following those rules?

HORSLEY: An investigation by Bloomberg found that when the Labor Department looked at Carl's Jr. restaurants over the last seven years, they found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act about 60 percent of the time.

Now, to be fair, a lot of those violations were in franchise restaurants, not company-owned stores. And Puzder has strongly opposed efforts to hold chain restaurants accountable for the conduct of their franchisees. In general, we would expect Puzder to be friendly to businesses and somewhat hostile to a lot of regulatory efforts.

SHAPIRO: Can you give us an example of an Obama administration step they might oppose?

HORSLEY: Yeah, one early target's likely to be the overtime rule that the Obama administration's Labor Department put out that would have made about 4 million more Americans eligible for overtime pay, including a lot of assistant managers at fast food restaurants. That rule was supposed to take effect last week, but it was put on hold by a federal judge. And the incoming Trump administration is expected to try and reverse it.

SHAPIRO: Scott, before you covered the White House and politics, you reported on fast food. Did you ever interview him?

HORSLEY: I did. And I think it's safe to say he would not be Michelle Obama's pick for a government post. I spoke to Andy Puzder back in 2005 when he was busy padding the menus at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's with ever-more-fattening shakes and burgers. And he really seemed to relish his reputation as the bad boy of fast food.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PUZDER: David Letterman had this actor play me on his show and die of a heart attack while eating the (unintelligible) burger on the show. But it was really very, very entertaining, but at the end of it, he says, you can't buy advertising like this. And he's absolutely right.

HORSLEY: So he's got several things in common with the president-elect who's nominated him. He thinks there's no such thing as bad publicity, and he's got a taste for red meat.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) NPR's Scott Horsley, thank you.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.