President-Elect Donald J. Trump intends to nominate Andrew F. Pudzer to head the U.S. Department of Labor, according to numerous sources familiar with his office. Pudzer is the CEO of the holding company that operates the fast food chains Hardee’s and Carls, Jr., an avid blogger, and an outspoken opponent of raises to the federal minimum wage and the minimum salary requirements for “white collar” exemptions. Like most other nominees, Pudzer has no government experience, having spent his entire career in the private sector.
He can expect stiff resistance from Senate Democrats given his public pronouncements against minimum wage hikes. An increase in the minimum wage remains increasingly popular according to a Pew Research poll over the summer which found that 58% of Americans favored an increase from $7.25 to $15.00/hour. Pudzer’s unpopular stance will make him a lightning rod for Democrats looking to win back favor from working class voters who abandoned them in the presidential election.
Still, the question remains whether Pudzer’s nomination, if approved by the Senate, will have a measurable effect on labor policy. No one realistically expected a Republican-dominated Congress to pass an increase to the minimum wage and the Final Rule which would have doubled the minimum salary for exempt “white collar” workers was put on hold by a federal judge in Texas just days before it was set to take place and an appeal of that decision is likely to be dropped by the Trump Administration. Worker-friendly initiatives like that seem dead on arrival in a DOL led by Pudzer.
It seems intuitive, therefore, that under Pudzer’s leadership, the DOL would also step back enforcement efforts. But Trump relied heavily on white collar workers in the Midwest especially in order to win back traditionally blue states and a disengaged DOL would certainly harm that effort. Plus, even though the DOL will be led by policymakers intent on limiting regulation, the career employees at DOL focused on enforcement will not necessarily be hampered by those constraints.
Still, expect the Pudzer nomination to draw significant opposition and publicity, although ultimately the opposition will not be enough to stop the nomination.