FEDERAL WATCH: Secretary of Labor Nominee Alexander Acosta Must Defend Workers’ Rights at Today’s Confirmation Hearing

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A Better Balance’s “Federal Watch” blog series will be responding to developments in Washington, D.C. that seek to roll back women’s rights, workers’ rights, and threaten our core values of fairness and economic security for all families.  We are committed to defending federal laws and policies that have opened the doors to opportunity for millions, as we continue to push for more family-friendly reforms at the state and local level. Join us to stay informed and engaged. 

Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal of his nomination for the U.S. Secretary of Labor position last month sent a clear message that workers will not tolerate a labor secretary with an anti-worker record. The new Labor Secretary nominee, Alexander Acosta, must now prove his commitment to workers at today’s Senate confirmation hearing.

First and foremost, Mr. Acosta must affirm his support for the basic tenets of the Labor Department’s mission “to foster . . . the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, [and to] advance their opportunities for profitable employment.” This means championing the issues workers care most about, including minimum wage, workplace safety, labor organizing, job flexibility, paid sick leave, and paid family and medical leave.

Mr. Acosta must also guarantee a commitment to fair workplaces. A Better Balance, along with several of our partners, recently submitted a series of questions to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions—the committee holding the hearing—urging the Senators to query Mr. Acosta on his views regarding a range of important workplace issues.

Mr. Acosta must answer how he intends to steer the Labor Department towards combating discrimination against LGBTQ workers. Specifically, he must answer whether he will commit to enforcing the prohibitions against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors. Moreover, he must affirm whether he will remain consistent with recent regulations and case law holding that it constitutes sex discrimination to ban transgender workers from using restrooms that are consistent with the gender with which those workers identify.

Senators at tomorrow’s hearing should also probe Mr. Acosta on his obligations to working families of all shapes and sizes. As Labor Secretary, will Mr. Acosta support inclusive family definitions in laws and policies related to family caregiving? Will he encourage the passage of a paid family leave policy that can be accessed by birth, adoptive, and foster parents regardless of gender and sexual orientation, so that paid leave really works for every family? Does he agree that businesses have a role to play in ensuring access to paid sick days?

Above all, Mr. Acosta must prove his ability and willingness to put workers and families first, and to defend and protect their hard-earned rights. No matter what, A Better Balance and our partners will be here to hold him accountable every step of the way.


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