The administration experienced a rocky start to appointing the new Secretary of Labor when Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, withdrew his name from consideration. Following this setback, President Donald Trump revealed his new pick, Alexander Acosta, who currently serves as the dean for Florida International University’s College of Law.
This appointment came less than 24 hours after Puzder’s withdrawal and despite the swiftness of White House’s nomination process, Acosta seems to be a less controversial pick for both sides of the political aisle. Many political analysts also believe Acosta will have an easier path to confirmation due to his extensive career in law and prior experience working for the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Justice. As the son of the son of Cuban immigrants, Acosta will also serve as the first Hispanic member of Trump’s cabinet.
Who is Acosta?
The Secretary of Labor is responsible for overseeing the DOL, by monitoring and addressing the quality of life of American workers. The appointee administers unemployment compensation benefits, enforces workplace safety regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and may testify to Congress on issues regarding to labor or employment. As a cabinet-level office position, the secretary reports directly to the president.
“Acosta served in three presidential appointed, senate-confirmed positions.”
During his career, Acosta served in three presidential appointed, senate-confirmed positions during the George W. Bush administration. He also served on the NLRB from Dec. 2002 to Aug. 2003 and held the the title of assistant attorney general for the civil-rights division. More recently, Acosta was as the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida, holding the title as the longest serving attorney in the district since the 1970s.
Under his leadership, his district targeted white collar crime, bank-related cases, health care fraud and drug trafficking. As a passionate support of civil rights, The Hill reported Acosta testified before Congress in 2011 about the need to protect the rights of Muslim Americans, saying America is founded on “on principles of freedom, and high on the list of freedoms is freedom of religious expression.”
What will workplace safety look like under Acosta’s leadership?
Regarding Acosta’s nomination, Trump said, “Alex is going to be a key part of achieving our goal of revitalizing the American economy, manufacturing and labor force.” Prior to Acosta’s appointment, employment and labor analysts and experts were uncertain about what Trump’s stance on workplace safety regulations would be, along with issues like the overtime law promoted by the previous Obama administration.
David Weil, the former head of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, told The Atlantic that he was not certain how the DOL will change under the Trump administration. With Acosta’s civil rights record and openness on immigration, he may seek to expand OSHA programs and regulations. However, this is dependent on if he has the budget and ability to make these changes.
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