Trump taps Acosta for Labor secretary

Melissa Nann Burke, and Keith Laing
The Detroit News


President Donald Trump has picked former Assistant Attorney General and National Labor Relations Board member R. Alexander Acosta to lead the Department of Labor, following the withdrawal Wednesday of embattled nominee Andy Puzder.

Acosta, who is dean of the Florida International University law school and a former U.S. Attorney, will be “a tremendous Secretary of Labor,” Trump said, noting that former labor relations board manager has been confirmed multiple times by the U.S. Senate for previous positions that he has held.

“He has a law degree from Harvard Law School, great student,” Trump said. “Former clerk for Justice Samuel Alito. He has a had tremendous career. He has been of the National Labor Relations Board and has been through Senate confirmation three times, confirmed, did a very, very well.”

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Acosta will be the first Hispanic person to serve in Trump’s candidate. Trump has been criticized for not picking a Hispanic person for his Cabinet prior to Acosta’s appointment.

Acosta is replacing Puzder, a fast food executive, who withdrew his name Wednesday after losing the support of some Republican senators. He had come under attack for allegations of domestic abuse, as well his former employment of a housekeeper not authorized to work in the U.S.

Trump announced his pick of Acosta at a news conference Thursday at the White House.

“Throughout his career, Alex Acosta has been a passionate advocate for equal opportunity for all Americans,” Trump said in a statement.

“Alex is going to be a key part of achieving our goal of revitalizing the American economy, manufacturing, and labor force. I call on the Senate to swiftly confirm this highly qualified and deserving leader so that he can get straight to work for the betterment of the American people.”

A Michigan State University professor was among Trump’s reported candidates for labor secretary.

Bloomberg News reported that Joseph M. Guzman, an assistant professor at MSU who advised Trump during his presidential campaign, was among four candidates under consideration, in addition to Acosta, former National Labor Relations Board member Peter Kirsanow and Catherine Templeton, formerly of the South Carolina labor department.

Guzman, who lives in Okemos, met with then-President-elect Trump at Trump Tower in New York in early January.

Transition officials had highlighted Guzman’s time on the board of the now-defunct Armed Forces Foundation, as well his Pentagon service as first deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy in the Office of Financial Management and Comptroller, as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force, and as deputy director of the Department of Defense's Biometric Management Office.

Guzman teaches in the human resources and labor relations department at MSU and serves on the faculty of the Chicano/Latino Studies program. He was co-chairman of Trump's Michigan campaign and a member of his National Hispanic Advisory Council.

According to his Facebook biography, Guzman has a doctorate in economic analysis and policy from Stanford University. He holds degrees in economics, statistics and business research from Stanford, as well as an MBA and bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Arizona.

His areas of expertise include the economics of human resources, labor market policy analysis and entrepreneurialism, according to MSU's website.

Guzman's biography says his policy research has included serving as an economist with the Center for Naval Analyses and the RAND Corp.

He unsuccessfully ran for administrative vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party in 2015. On the local level, Guzman was elected to the Loudoun County School Board representing Sugarland Run District in Virginia, serving for eight years.

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