Rene Alexander "Alex" Acosta was nominated as secretary of labor on Feb. 16, 2017 after President Donald Trump's initial pick Andrew Puzder, CEO of fast food company CKE Restaurants, withdrew from consideration for the position the day before. If confirmed by the Senate, Acosta will be the first Latino and one of three minority cabinet nominees for the Trump administration.
President Trump said Acosta will be “a tremendous secretary of labor.” Trump also sees many problems with U.S. employment, saying “jobs are pouring out of the country. See what’s going on with all of the companies leaving the country, going to Mexico and other places.” The U.S. Secretary of Labor's duties include enforcing labor laws, workplace safety and unemployment benefits as well as testifying to Congress on issues related to labor and employment.
Acosta, 48, is the dean of the Florida International University College of Law and has served in three government positions that require appointment by the president and Senate confirmation. He served under President George W. Bush as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2003 to 2005. Before that, he was appointed by Bush to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board for administering and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act on labor relations of the private sector.
From 2005 to 2009, he served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida and prosecuted high-profile individuals, including lobbyist Jack Abramoff, terrorist Jose Padilla and Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, Jr. in the first torture case in the U.S. He also went after the Cali Cartel for importing cocaine. The District also prosecuted banks for white collar crimes, including UBS which was fined $780 million for helping clients evade U.S. taxes.
Acosta came from a Cuban immigrant family and grew up in Miami, Florida. After earning an economics degree from Harvard College and a law degree from Harvard Law School, he worked as a law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. He then practiced law at Kirkland & Ellis's office in Washington D.C. specializing in employment and labor issues. He also taught at the George Mason University School of Law, covering employment law, disability-based discrimination law, and civil rights law. In 2013, Acosta became the chairman of U.S. Century Bank, the largest domestic Hispanic community bank in Florida and one of the 15 largest Hispanic community banks in the U.S.