Andy Puzder, the fast-food chief executive who opposes regulations that would secure overtime for underpaid fast-food managers, who’s against raising the minimum wage in any significant way, who runs burger chains that boast a 60 percent violation rate of the Fair Labor Standards Act, who expressed personal support for his chain’s ads involving bikini-clad women in compromising poses, who admitted to hiring an undocumented housekeeper, whose own company has spent $20 million in settling overtime suits, and whose professional career shows he has little interest in advocating for the rights of workers he’d be in charge of as labor secretary, has withdrawn his candidacy for that post amid opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. President Donald Trump and the National Restaurant Association, the organization that advocates on behalf of the food service industry, thought he was great.
“While I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team," Puzder said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. He soon followed it up on Twitter by adding, “I'm honored to have been considered and am grateful to all who have supported me.”
Earlier on Wednesday, CNN reported that up to 12 Republicans opposed Puzder’s nomination. The GOP, which controls 52 seats in the Senate, would’ve needed 50 members plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence to have secured a cabinet post for the fast-food executive.
Puzder is the first of Trump’s cabinet-level picks that Democrats have successfully blocked. The Department of Labor is the primary U.S. government agency charged with enforcing minimum wage and overtime regulations. The restaurant industry, which allowed Puzder to accumulate much of his wealth, is one of the country’s largest violators of wage laws, according to the department’s own statistics.
Over half of federal investigations into Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s since 2009 revealed at least one wage-related violation, according to a Bloomberg Law study.
Labor groups (and this reporter) have been critical of Puzder’s candidacy since his nomination late last year, but it’s possible that recently resurfaced domestic abuse reports helped torpedo the candidacy. Politico published a video last night of Lisa Fierstein, Puzder’s ex-wife, on a 1990 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show titled “High Class Battered Women.” Fierstein accused Puzder of abuse (allegations she later retracted and he denies), but the video is shocking. “Most men who are in positions like that don't leave marks,” Fierstein, in disguise, says in the clip, which Politico also posted on Twitter. “The damage that I sustained you can't see. It's permanent. They don't hit you in the face. They're too smart. They don't hit you in front of everyone." The episode aired before Fierstein retracted the claims as part of a child custody agreement.
Trump has not yet released a statement on Puzder’s withdrawal.
As of November, another potential candidate for labor secretary was thought to be Victoria Lipnic, a Republican member of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission who has been known to cross party lines in her votes, though who generally prefers less regulation, the Atlantic reported last year.