Now in his new role as U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta joined international labor and employment leaders who represent approximately 85% of the world's global economy at the G20 Labor and Employment Ministers' Meeting, held in Germany in May. Acosta was sworn in as head of the U.S. Department of Labor only two weeks prior in late April 2017 and is the son of Cuban refugees and a first-generation college graduate. He earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University.
The annual G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ Meeting brings together nations to advise G20 Leaders on the most pressing labor challenges facing workers. Father to two girls, Acosta chose a topic close to his heart as a spotlight in his speech: Supporting the future of women in the workforce.
On women succeeding in the current and future economy, Acosta hopes to see more apprenticeships offered in “high-growth, emerging sectors,” where apprenticeships haven’t been available in the past.
“Fuller participation in apprenticeship programs will give more women the skills they need to take advantage of the technology revolution of the last several years,” Acosta said, noting that he wants to see organizations ensuring women the right to enter the construction trades.
On the same topic of technology, Secretary Acosta also wants to see growth for women in Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.
“Over the last decade, technological breakthroughs have fundamentally transformed the economy in the United States and the world. These changes have improved the way billions of people live, and they are creating global demand for high-skilled jobs…women are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–or STEM–fields, which are playing a critical role in the technological revolution.
This must change. Women are invaluable players in the global economy, and investing in women is absolutely critical for fully mobilizing the economy in the United States and throughout the world.”
Acosta noted two bills signed into law this past February, including one advising NASA to foster the entry of women into aerospace fields, and to promote STEM studies for girls in elementary and secondary schools. The second bill authorized the National Science Foundation to support women’s entrepreneurial programs.
Getting women into employment, integrating migrants, sustainable global supply chains, and the future of work were the main topics at the meeting of G20 labor ministers. A joint declaration on key employment issues was adopted at the end of the meeting.
Safety in the Workplace
Earlier this year, Acosta made headlines in the Huffington Post when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wanted to know if he planned to enforce OSHA’s silica rule as he was in the midst of nominations for heading up DOL and OSHA. “Will you promise not to weaken the silica rule?” Warren asked Acosta, referring to OSHA’s delay in enforcing the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry. The final crystalline silica ruling was announced March 2016, and the agency would start enforcement on June 23, 2017. However, OSHA asked for more time to conduct additional outreach and prepare educational materials, and “due to the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard,” the revised date is set for September 23, 2017.
"Women are invaluable players in the global economy, and investing in women is absolutely critical for fully mobilizing the economy in the United States and throughout the world.”
-Alexander Acosta, U.S. Secretary of Labor
Acosta responded by saying the new President had ordered agencies to reexamine rules similar to the silica rule. Acosta noted in his opening remarks that he was concerned about safety. In a separate exchange, Acosta said, “I think that worker safety is incredibly important.”
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