Acosta Gets Thumbs Up From Construction Unions, Contractors

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By Elliott T. Dube

Alexander Acosta, the new labor secretary nominee, gained the support of two construction union leaders in 2003 when he was nominated for a Justice Department leadership position, and their opinion of him hasn’t changed.

The general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers said Acosta was a “reasonable, intelligent and eminently fair individual” in a July 2003 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Douglas McCarron, the general president of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, wrote a letter telling the committee that Acosta was “both fair and open minded” and able to “understand and absorb disparate information and opinions and resolve difficult issues.”

The committee was considering Acosta’s nomination to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. Acosta had been a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003.

Both unions again backed Acosta when President Donald Trump tapped him to be labor secretary Feb. 16. Acosta’s nomination followed fast-food executive Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal from consideration.

McCarron, who continues to hold the Carpenters general president post, called Acosta an “advocate for the middle class” in a Feb. 16 statement. Acosta has demonstrated commitment to public service and to issues important to the Carpenters, such as fighting payroll fraud, the union said.

Acosta has shown an ability to make “thoughtful decisions on difficult issues” that would be vital for doing DOL work such as guarding against wage theft and enforcing safety standards, the Operating Engineers said in a Feb. 16 statement.

Contractor Associations Also Welcome Pick

Contractor groups are also expressing optimism about Acosta’s selection.

Associated General Contractors of America is pleased that the new nominee has a strong background in labor and employment law, Jim Young, AGC’s director of congressional relations, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 16.

Acosta’s NLRB experience in particular makes him “uniquely qualified” for the post, Young said. AGC hopes an Acosta-led DOL would unwind “needless” regulations that the Obama administration implemented and tackle the workforce shortage that is hampering many contractors’ business, Young said.

Acosta’s experience in labor law enforcement is one factor that has caused the National Electrical Contractors Association to be “cautiously optimistic” about his nomination, Marco Giamberardino, NECA’s executive director of government affairs, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 17.

“I would hope in the coming weeks we get to see that he will in fact be a pretty fair arbiter of all issues concerning current federal labor laws and have a clear understanding of how management and labor can work together,” Giamberardino said.

Acosta has a “strong record of honorable public service,” Kristen Swearingen, the vice president of legislative and political affairs for Associated Builders & Contractors, said in a Feb. 17 statement. ABC is hopeful that Acosta would pursue DOL goals in a “reasonable manner that does not needlessly hinder economic growth,” Swearingen said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elliott T. Dube in Washington at edube@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

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