President Donald Trump on Thursday named law school dean Alexander Acosta as his second nominee for labor secretary, after the withdrawal of restaurant CEO Andy Puzder.
Acosta, dean of the Florida International University law school in Miami, served on the National Labor Relations Board from December 2002 to August 2003, and as a federal prosecutor in Florida. He is the first Latino nominated to Trump’s cabinet.
“I think he’s going to be a tremendous secretary of labor,” Trump said in a White House press conference.
Acosta’s nomination came after Puzder, CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s parent CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., withdrew Wednesday, on the eve of his confirmation, hearing after a number of Republican senators said they would not support him.
Matthew Haller, senior vice president for communications and public affairs at the International Franchise Association, said the IFA was impressed with Acosta’s background and thought he would have an easier time gaining Senate confirmation.
But Haller added that the IFA was disappointed that Puzder, whom the group strongly supported, withdrew.
“We think this is missed opportunity to put someone with business knowledge in the position,” he said.
Acosta, who did not appear at the Trump press conference Thursday, has a long government career. In addition to his NLRB appointment, Acosta was named by former President George W. Bush as an assistant attorney general for civil rights.
In the private sector, Acosta serves as chairman of Miami-based U.S. Century Bank, which says it is one of the nation’s largest Latino community banks in the country.
Early statements from labor activist organizations were more muted than those in the wake of the beleaguered Puzder nomination.
Christine Owens, executive director of the non-profit National Employment Law Project, said Acosta “deserves a thorough vetting” on labor and employee issues.
“As we review Mr. Acosta’s record in the coming days,” Owens said in a statement, “we’ll be looking for someone who respects workers, and who believes in — and is ready to uphold — the Labor Department’s mission ‘to foster … the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment.’”
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