President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to be his labor secretary, Politico and CBS News reported Thursday. If Walsh is confirmed, the labor leader-turned-politician would be in charge of enforcing federal employment laws at a critical time.
Walsh has been Boston’s mayor since 2013 and previously held a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He served as president of the Laborers International Union of North America Local 223 until he arrived at Boston City Hall.
Walsh reportedly had the backing of several labor leaders, including the head of the AFL-CIO union federation, for a position in Biden’s administration. The choice of Walsh, who is already friendly with Biden, would bring someone with deep union roots to the Labor Department.
If Walsh wins Senate confirmation, his tenure would likely mark an abrupt turnaround from the Trump years. The outgoing administration took a hands-off approach to employers, even during the workplace safety crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic. Since last year, the Labor Department has been run by Eugene Scalia, a former management-side attorney who spent years fighting government regulation.
As a labor leader, Walsh spent his career on the other side of the employment divide, advocating for the construction workers represented by Massachusetts building trades unions.
Boston Globe via Getty Images Marty Walsh has been Boston’s mayor since 2013.
“The last four years of President Trump’s failed leadership have hurt cities all across the country,” Walsh recently told Boston.com. “On January 20, 2021, mayors will once again have a partner in the White House, and I’m excited about what a Biden-Harris administration means for Boston.”
Walsh had not yet announced whether he would run for reelection in Boston next year, stirring speculation that he might end up in a Biden administration. Other contenders for the labor secretary job included Rep. Andy Levin (D), a former union organizer who now represents a district in Michigan; Patrick Gaspard, a former Obama aide and union organizer; and Julie Su, the current labor secretary for California.
The labor secretary position is not always a prominent perch in a president’s Cabinet, but it’s taking on an outsize role due to the pandemic. The Labor Department interacts with state-based unemployment benefit programs, and includes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees workplace safety across the country. Millions of workers remain unemployed due to the coronavirus and millions more are facing unprecedented health hazards on the job.
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