On Feb. 16, Donald Trump nominated lawyer Alexander Acosta to replace failed labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, who was forced to withdraw his name from consideration less than 24 hours earlier.

Alexander Acosta was appointed to replace withdrawn Labor Department nominee Andrew Puzder on Feb. 16.
Photo credit courtesy of Florida Atlantic University.

Puzder, the multi-millionaire CEO of fast food giants Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., ran into stiff opposition from working men and women after multiple reports surfaced about the fast food chain’s exploitation of his workforce. Labor leaders praised Puzder’s withdrawal as a major win for working people.

The 46-year-old Acosta was a George W. Bush appointee to the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003, where he authored or co-authored 125 opinions, which labor lawyers are still evaluating.

As head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, he was found in a 2008 report to have failed to rein in the politicized hiring practices of a senior staff member. He also faced questions over his interference on behalf of Republican politicians during a 2004 fight against voter suppression in Ohio.

“There’s still a lot of Mr. Acosta’s record to be looked at,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, “but working people should be proud that their phone calls and emails to members of the Senate were able to rally opposition to a person like Andrew Puzder. His record was clear, and it was one that treated workers like a commodity, not human beings.

“We’re hopeful that Mr. Acosta, with his many years working in government, will be open to talking with members of the labor community, and that he’ll regard solemnly his position heading the Department of Labor.”

The DOL is responsible for sticking up for American workers, its mission dedicated to “improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, and strengthening free collective bargaining,” according to DOL.gov.

Acosta would also oversee the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which ensures safe working conditions; and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles and publishes data on U.S. employment.

In addition to his time at the Department of Justice and the NLRB, Acosta also served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, where he was sworn in by now-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, for whom he clerked in the mid-1990s. He also spent years in private practice and served as dean of the law school at Florida International University in Miami.

His nomination, for now, looks far more secure than Puzder’s ever did. After his nomination, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who is the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that will review his qualifications, reserved judgment.

“I look forward to carefully reviewing Mr. Acosta’s qualifications and background, and meeting with him to discuss his plans and vision for the Department,” she said in a statement. “I have some initial concerns about his record, and especially based on what we’ve seen in past nominees from President Trump, I will continue to insist on a rigorous and thorough vetting process.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “Unlike Andy Puzder, Alexander Acosta’s nomination deserves serious consideration.”

Cover photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Matt Popovich.