February 22, 2017
Last week, President Trump nominated Alexander Acosta to be the next Secretary of Labor, a position that involves leading the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL or Department). Trump’s first choice for the position, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, withdrew prior to his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing due to bipartisan opposition.
If confirmed, Acosta will be in charge of a Department that includes the Wage and Hour Division, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and a number of other agencies and bodies that enforce laws and develop regulations impacting many aspects of the employer-employee relationship.
Acosta is expected to have a smoother path to confirmation because he has previously been confirmed by the Senate to three positions—National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) Member, Assistant Attorney General, and U.S. Attorney. Also, unlike Puzder, Acosta does not have a record of making controversial statements about workplace issues.
Acosta is the son of Cuban immigrants and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Also, he has extensive experience in the public and private sectors:
- After law school, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when Alito was a federal appeals court judge in Philadelphia;
- He then practiced employment and labor law in Washington, D.C.;
- He served as a member of the NLRB as an appointee of President George W. Bush;
- He has served as Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division;
- He has served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida;
- He is currently Dean of Florida International University’s law school; and
- He is also chairman of U.S. Century Bank, a community bank in South Florida.
During his time at the NLRB, Acosta participated in over 125 decisions. In hearing cases involving worker versus management rights, he usually sided with his fellow Republican members of the Board in supporting management, but he agreed with Democratic members in some cases.
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