R. Alexander Acosta was sworn in as secretary of the Dept. of Labor on April 28, after becoming President Trump’s last Cabinet pick to win Senate confirmation on April 27.
Acosta, a former National Labor Relations Board member and Justice Dept. official, won Senate confirmation by a 60-38 vote, over objections from some Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who said during confirmation hearings that Acosta failed to promise to advocate for workers.
After he was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence, Acosta said his main job as Labor Secretary would be job growth. He also said too many workers want jobs but are unprepared to fill them.
“The skills gap is real and needs to be addressed,” he said.
During his confirmation hearing, senators pressed Acosta on a May 23 Labor Dept. rule raising the threshold for overtime pay.
But Acosta will face decisions on other construction-related issues as well, including the silica rule, which labor has asked the department to revisit. On April 6, the Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration pushed back the date for enforcement of the rule from June 23 to Sept. 23. It’s not clear yet how Acosta will handle the rule and other construction-specific labor issues including the Davis-Bacon prevailing-wage law and project labor agreements on federally funded construction contracts.
Labor unions supported Acosta’s nomination, including the Laborers’ International Union of North America. After his confirmation, the Associated Builders and Contractors congratulated Acosta. “Associated Builders and Contractors looks forward to working with Secretary Acosta to accomplish the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s vital mission of ensuring the safety, equitable treatment and advancement of all American workers without needlessly hindering economic growth,” said Michael Bellaman, president and CEO of ABC.
Acosta is the son of Cuban refugees and a Harvard graduate. He most recently served as dean of Florida International Law School in Miami.