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Labor Department deregulation expected to pick up steam after Acosta

Kimberly Adams Jul 12, 2019
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Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta gives a press conference at the U.S. Department of Labor on July 10, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta resigned from his post today, saying the scandal over his handling of a sex trafficking case a decade ago was too much of a distraction for the administration.

The Labor Department is charged with looking out for the well-being of laborers, job-seekers and retirees.

In the two years Acosta ran the department, he had the same mandate as many of President Trump’s other cabinet members: deregulate.

“If you look at what they completed during Secretary Acosta’s term, there was clearly an effort to roll back earlier Obama rules,” said Bridget Dooling of the GW Regulatory Studies Center. The rule that would make more workers eligible for overtime pay is one example.

But, for some, Acosta wasn’t moving fast enough.

“He certainly took what I would say is an overly cautious approach and took a long time to reverse course from the previous administration,” said Trey Kovacs with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which advocates for business deregulation.

That slow timeline earned the grudging appreciation of many labor activists, however.

“We felt that, for the Trump administration, the Acosta Department of Labor was far better than we feared,” said Judy Conti with the National Employment Law Project.

But Conti said that under the new acting secretary, Patrick Pizzella, deregulation is likely to pick up speed.

“We certainly know that they will continue to try to gut the overtime reform, and to make sure that employers have less and less responsibility to create good jobs for the workers,” she said.

Correction (July 15, 2019): A previous version of this story misspelled Patrick Pizzella’s name. The text has been corrected.

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