The U.S. Senate yesterday confirmed Alexander Acosta as Labor Secretary on a 60-38 vote.
Acosta has served on the National Labor Relations Board and has been a federal assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice and a U.S. attorney in Florida.
He replaced President Donald Trump’s first pick for the position, fast food executive CEO Andrew Puzder, who dropped out of the running after it was revealed that he employed an undocumented immigrant in his household.
Acosta will be responsible for steering the Labor Department within Trump’s avowed anti-regulatory agenda. Worker safety protections which have already been affected by Trump’s executive orders include the enforcement delays of OSHA’s beryllium and crystalline silica rules and the rollback of the “Volks rule” portion of the agency’s recordkeeping rule.
During Senate confirmation hearings, some Democratic lawmakers were frustrated by Acosta’s refusal to answer questions about worker safety regulations.
“The President’s Executive Order ordered and I think its important that we eliminate regulations that are not serving a useful purpose because they are impeding small business,” he said. “Small business is what creates jobs in this country. And if we are going to create jobs we need to free up small business. And so that would be my big picture on regulation.”
Acosta cited that executive order a number of times when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked if he would promise not to weaken the silica rule.
During questions about the future size of OSHA’s budget and how cutbacks could reduce the number of inspectors, Acosta said, “I think that worker safety is incredibly important.”