On Feb. 16, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Alex Acosta, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board and a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida, as secretary of labor. Acosta’s nomination came after Trump’s original nominee for the position, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination when Republican Senate leaders determined that they did not have the votes to confirm him.
While Acosta will also have to survive Senate scrutiny before his nomination is confirmed and he takes his seat as secretary of labor, Acosta has impressive credentials and a lengthy track record in public service. Acosta is a native of Miami, Florida, and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After law school, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, then a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In 2002, Acosta was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Acosta later served as United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida from June 2005 through June 2009. As a result, Acosta can lay claim to an extensive track record of public service and – perhaps more important – the fact that he has already survived Senate confirmation for multiple prior positions.
By giving him oversight over the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Acosta’s appointment as secretary of labor would have obvious safety and health implications for the regulated community. But because Acosta does not have the same extensive track record overseeing safety and health laws as he does with other labor and employment issues, it is unclear what an Acosta administration would mean to OSHA. Nevertheless, Acosta has a relatively good chance of being confirmed by the Senate, so the regulated community may not have to wait long to find out.