Acosta on Day One Talks Jobs, Not Regulatory Rollback

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By Ben Penn

Freshly confirmed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta told his new employees he wants to bring jobs back to the country for U.S. workers, according to an internal letter obtained by Bloomberg BNA.

“Too many Americans have seen their jobs vanish overseas,” Acosta said in the letter to Labor Department employees, distributed shortly after he was sworn in to the position April 28. “Too many Americans have seen their jobs filled by foreign workers.”

The comments came after Acosta thanked his Cuban-American immigrant parents for sacrifices he said allowed him to pursue higher education. “My parents’ experiences form the foundation of who I am and frame my perspective on the Department of Labor’s critical mission: to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of our nation’s workers, job seekers, and retirees,” Acosta said.

The secretary is expected to move quickly to try to make up for time lost during the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency when the DOL was without a leader. He will likely start by hiring new staff, announcing nominees for leadership roles, reviewing controversial Obama-era regulations and finalizing the DOL’s budget proposal for next year.

Secretary Enters Headquarters

Immediately after an April 28 White House swearing in ceremony with Vice President Mike Pence, Acosta arrived at the DOL headquarters, lunched at the cafeteria and had one-on-one talks with the career staff.

The secretary’s only public remarks at the DOL occurred when he swung by the agency’s Employment and Training Administration, which administers job training funds. “I’m really excited about the workforce training part, because that’s to me so important,” Acosta said. “As I was walking around talking to members, everyone sort of agrees we need to train individuals and that the skills gap is real. That’s not a question; that’s a fact.”

“And we need to work to address that. I’m excited to be here and we just have a lot of work to do,” Acosta said.

He exited after brief remarks without taking questions from reporters.

Pence Gives Vote of Confidence

“The president and I are absolutely confident that ... with you as our new secretary of labor, we will continue to restore opportunity, prosperity and growth for working Americans now and for generations to come,” Mike Pence told Acosta at his swearing in ceremony.

Acosta’s brief comments echoed the theme of his letter to staff on the need to preserve U.S. jobs.

Acosta was sworn in one day after the Senate voted 60-38 to confirm him as the 27th labor secretary.

But missing from the labor secretary’s comments on his first day was any mention of the regulatory rollback that is now expected to occupy a significant amount of the department’s work.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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