Federal agencies Leadership

Senate confirms Acosta as Secretary of Labor

Acosta - Pence

Vice President Mike Pence (right) speaking during the swearing-in ceremony for R. Alexander Acosta, the new Secretary of Labor.

Photo: White House

Washington – R. Alexander Acosta is the new Secretary of Labor, after the Senate confirmed him April 27 in a bipartisan vote of 60-38.

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Acosta on April 28.

“I want to thank President [Donald] Trump, Vice President Pence and the members of the Senate for the privilege of serving as Secretary of Labor,” Acosta said after the swearing-in ceremony. “As Vice President (sic) said, it is about finding and helping and supporting jobs and job growth.”

Trump nominated Acosta on Feb. 16, one day after initial nominee Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration.

Acosta previously served in the Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration and was a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Prior to his swearing-in as DOL chief, he was dean of the law school at Florida International University, a position he had held since 2009.

Eight Democrats and one independent voted in favor of Acosta, the son of Cuban immigrants who also has served as a federal prosecutor.

“Once Mr. Acosta officially assumes his new position, I hope his focus will be to unleash the power of the American workforce by promoting labor policies that are free of unnecessarily burdensome federal regulations,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said in an April 27 press release.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, also championed the move.

“America’s workers and employers desperately need a new direction at the Department of Labor,” Foxx said in an April 27 press release. “That day has finally come. I wish to congratulate Alexander Acosta on his confirmation to serve as labor secretary. This is an important responsibility that requires taking on powerful special interests and restoring fairness and balance to federal labor policies.”

Acosta highlighted worker safety as an important focus of his position while speaking at his confirmation hearing March 22 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“Good jobs should also be safe jobs,” Acosta said. “Congress has enacted workplace safety laws. The Department of Labor enforces these, and if confirmed, I will work to enforce the laws under the department’s jurisdiction fully and fairly. As a former prosecutor, I will always be on the side of the law and not any particular constituency.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the HELP Committee, lauded Acosta’s background.

“We are fortunate to have a presidential nominee for Labor Secretary who understands how a good-paying job is critical to helping workers realize the American dream for themselves and for their families,” Alexander said in an April 26 press release. “Alexander Acosta became the first person in his family to go to college and from there has had an impressive career.”

Not all were in favor of Acosta, however. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the HELP Committee, reiterated her apprehension over his candidacy.

“I have serious concerns, given Mr. Acosta’s professional history, about whether undue political pressure would impact decision-making at the Department,” Murray said in an April 26 press release. “My concerns were only heightened at his nomination hearing, when Mr. Acosta said he would defer to President Trump on the priorities of the Department of Labor. We need a Secretary of Labor who will prioritize workers and the mission of the Department of Labor over special interests and political pressure.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)