Secretary Acosta: Ready for Worker Freedom at the DOL

Posted by Olivia Grady on Friday, April 28th, 2017 at 11:17 am - Permalink

By Olivia Grady

On April 27, 2017, the Senate confirmed President Trump’s Department of Labor Secretary nominee, R. Alexander Acosta, by a 60-38 vote.

Interestingly, eight Democrat Senators voted for him: Bill Nelson (FL), Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jon Tester (MT) and Mark Warner (VA). Angus King, an independent from Maine, voted for Acosta as well. Republican Senator Pat Toomey (PA) and Democrat Senator Gary Peters (MI) didn’t vote.

Republicans and some Democrats were pleased with President Trump’s traditional choice.

For example, Republican Senator and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Lamar Alexander (TN) praised Acosta in a February 16th statement and mentioned that the Senate had already confirmed him three times:

"Mr. Acosta's nomination is off to a good start because he's already been confirmed by the Senate three times. He has an impressive work and academic background."

Democrat National Labor Relations Board member Wilma Liebman also supported Trump’s choice according to Politico:

"Even though we often came out differently on policy conclusions or the outcome of a case, he was a good colleague and he was always willing to talk and bounce around ideas. I would say he's very smart and he's an independent thinker."

Some Democrats, however, were not as pleased.

Democrat Senator Patty Murray (WA) told The Hill that she worries Acosta will not protect workers:

“The Department of Labor is an agency whose job it is to stand up for the workers in this country, their safety, making sure they get the pay they’ve earned. I just do not feel comfortable Mr. Acosta is going to stand up to a Trump administration that, in my opinion, has not done that.” 

Also, during Acosta’s Senate confirmation hearing on March 22, 2017, Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) accused Acosta of not answering her questions and said that she had no confidence in him.

Secretary Acosta brings a lot of experience to the Department of Labor. He was most recently Dean of the Florida International University College of Law. He has also held positions in government, including member of the National Labor Relations Board and assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division in President Bush’s U.S. Justice Department. He was also U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Secretary Acosta, however, will likely experience challenges as he takes over the Department of Labor because of the burdensome regulations that the Obama Administration imposed. Two of the Obama Administration’s rules that Secretary Acosta will likely fix are the overtime rule and the fiduciary rule.

The overtime rule was a rule issued by the Department of Labor on May 23, 2016. It doubled the maximum salary to $47,500 that a worker can earn and still receive mandatory overtime pay. The rule also made 4 million workers eligible for overtime pay. The rule would make it a lot more expensive for employers to hire workers.

The rule is being litigated over currently, but Trump’s administration could stop the rule by failing to defend it in court.

The fiduciary rule similarly imposes more burdens on businesses. The fiduciary rule expanded the definition of investment advice fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Under this rule, all financial professionals in retirement planning would become legally and ethically bound to the standards of a fiduciary. President Trump has delayed the rule until June 9, 2017.

Despite the work that needs to get done, the Center for Worker Freedom is encouraged by Trump’s choice. Congratulations, Secretary Acosta!