Alexander Acosta is a Florida native and the son of Cuban immigrants, who has a legal background with many years of government service. He is well-credentialed, with an undergraduate degree in Economics as well as a Law degree from Harvard University. He has experience in the public sector, having served in the Department of Justice, Civil Rights division under the George W. Bush administration, where he defended the rights of Muslim Americans.
While he was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, his office’s 284 lawyers, from Key West to Vero Beach, convicted bank chairmen, corporate executives and the torturer son of Liberia’s ex-president. They dismantled gangs and felled dozens of companies for fraudulent mortgage lending and Medicare scams. Some other noteworthy cases that took place during his tenure were that of the Liberty City Seven, a cult whose members were charged with terrorism; Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist at the center of the 2005 Indian lobbying scandal; Chuckie Taylor, son of the former president of Liberia who was convicted of carrying out human rights violations including torture; and Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, founders of a drug cartel that had been importing billions of dollars of cocaine into Florida.
While serving on the National Labor Relations Board from December 2002 to August of 2003 (he was appointed to that position by George W. Bush), Mr. Acosta offered over 125 opinions. There isn’t necessarily a lot known about his view of labor unions, and he did not author any particularly controversial decisions. Obama’s Labor Department pushed through a number of policies, including Executive Orders that used the federal government’s contracting power to elevate wages and increase labor protections for federal contract workers, rules that doubled the salary threshold that qualified workers for overtime pay, and required retirement advisers to act in their clients best interests. See Article “The DOL Fiduciary Rule: Are Commission Structures for Retirement Investment Advisers a Thing of the Past?” Republicans are hoping that Mr. Acosta will roll back Obama’s labor legacy. Despite the unknowns, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded to the nomination with a conciliatory statement. “Unlike Andy Puzder, Alexander Acosta’s nomination deserves serious consideration,” Trumka said. “In one day, we’ve gone from a fast-food CEO who routinely violates labor law to a public servant with experience enforcing it.
More telling may be the insight from those who know him best. “He’s intense, hardworking, but I think in contrast to Puzder, he’s going to get things done more quietly,” said Tammy McCutcheon, who served as administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department during the Bush administration. “He will be quietly efficient. I don’t think you’ll see a lot of difference in his policy positions from Puzder.”
Mr. Acosta currently is dean of Florida International University College of Law and chairman of U.S. Century Bank.