Less than 24 hours after his first pick to head the Department of Labor withdrew his nomination over intense scrutiny of his various professional and personal controversies, President Trump is ready to throw a new name into the mix: Alexander Acosta.
By most accounts, Acosta makes for a less controversial choice than Puzder, a fast food executive decried by opponents as anti-worker. Acosta, the current dean of Florida International University College of Law, has been previously confirmed for other positions that required confirmation in the Senate. In 2002, Acosta was nominated to the National Labor Relations Board by then-President George W. Bush. In 2003, he was chosen to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Acosta went on to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Following the quick announcement, Trump declared that Acosta is “going to be a tremendous secretary of labor” before launching into a meandering Q and A in which the president defended himself against everything from the Flynn scandal to anti-Semitism.
Compared to Puzder, relatively little is known about Acosta’s labor positions, but his role has the potential for broad impact on the tech sector. For example, in late 2016, CIA-funded data analytics firm Palantir came under fire for discriminatory hiring practices by the Department of Labor, which conducts audits of privately held companies with government contracts. Last month, the Department of Labor sued Google over its failure to provide routine compensation data.
But compliance with government labor laws isn’t the only way that tech interacts with the DOL. As the tech industry takes an increasingly public stand to defend its workforce against an administration with open hostility for immigrants, the department’s mission to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States” could take on a dynamic role in the clash between Trump and tech.
In 2017, the tech industry continues to redefine the makeup of not only the American workforce, but of American jobs themselves. That progress is accompanied by growing pains around issues of diversity, workplace protections, automation and wages — all issues well within the purview of Trump’s newest cabinet pick.