A victory for working people: That’s what union leaders called the news Feb. 15 that Andrew Puzder was dropping out as Donald Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Labor, after weeks of national union pressure against his confirmation. Labor Secretary is in charge of enforcing federal minimum wage, overtime, child labor and occupational safety and health laws. But Puzder, CEO of the company that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains, has been a vocal critic of efforts to increase the federal minimum wage and update overtime rules.
Yet other factors sank his nomination, including revelations that he employed an undocumented housekeeper, and that his ex-wife shared stories of spousal abuse on the Oprah show in the 1980s. As many as a dozen Republican senators were reportedly considering voting against him.
The day after Puzder gave notice of his withdrawal, the White House announced that the new nominee would be Alexander Acosta — dean of the Florida International University School of Law and chairman of a South Florida bank. A Harvard Law grad, Acosta began his career representing employers in employment and labor issues at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm.
Now, according to the White House press statement, he’s “eager to work tirelessly on behalf of the American worker.”
Under President George W. Bush, Acosta served briefly on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), then led the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
After Puzder, Acosta comes as a relief to labor. “Acosta’s nomination deserves serious consideration,” said AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka. “We’ve gone from a fast-food CEO who routinely violates labor law to a public servant with experience enforcing it.”