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Boston Globe

Biden Selects Marty Walsh for Labor Secretary

Walsh is the Mayor of Boston and a former trades President

Brian Young's picture
Jan 07, 2021

With just two weeks until Inauguration Day, President-elect Biden has continued to fill out his cabinet by announcing the selection of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to be his Labor Secretary. Before Walsh was elected Mayor, he was a union leader coming out of Laborers Local 223.

Walsh first joined Local 223 when he was just 21 years old. He worked his way up in the union to become the Local’s President. He then was elected as secretary-treasurer and general agent of the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council, before being elected their President in 2011. He served in that position until 2013 when he announced his run for Mayor. Additionally, Walsh served from 1997 until 2013 as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Walsh became a frontrunner for the position when the AFT and AFSCME, the two largest affiliates of the AFL-CIO, announced their support for him. “Marty is a star, and he could hit the ground running as far as dealing with the issues and impact on working families,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said earlier this month.

Walsh beat out a number of extremely qualified candidates for the position including Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), former Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris, California Labor Secretary Julie Su and AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs. With so many qualified candidates, the AFL-CIO decided to not issue a formal endorsement before the selection. However just minutes after Walsh was selected, they issued a statement saying:

“Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will be an exceptional labor secretary for the same reason he was an outstanding mayor: he carried the tools. As a longtime union member, Walsh knows that collective bargaining is essential to building back better by combating inequality, beating COVID-19 and expanding opportunities for immigrants, women and people of color. He will have the ear of the White House, the Cabinet and Congress as we work to increase union density and create a stronger, fairer America. From the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council to the Massachusetts State House to the mayor’s office to his own personal journey with overcoming addiction, Marty Walsh has always been a fighter who understands the power of working people standing together for a better life.”

Walsh will be tasked with some important roles in the Biden Administration. On the campaign trail, Biden promised to be the most labor-friendly President in US history and has promised to push important legislation like the PRO Act and a repeal of Right to Work, so it would be expected that Walsh will have his hands full instituting new worker rules that strengthen worker rights. Walsh will also be tasked with rolling back many of the Trump era regulations that were passed to make it harder for workers to organize, like allowing unions decertification just 45 days after a union vote.

He will also be entering an agency that has been neglected over the past four years. One important department, OSHA, has faced a significant loss of inspectors and has come under enormous criticism during the pandemic for failing to protect workers and investigate complaints against companies that violated safety rules and COVID protocols. Walsh will need to rebuild this agency to better protect working people.

“Marty will hit the ground running as a relentless worker advocate and ally, both inside the administration and in the public sphere,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “He will fight for dignity and respect for all workers, including for their right to unionize, for health and safety standards, to raise the minimum wage and to ensure workers and their unions have an opportunity to thrive. And he will help reverse President Trump’s four years of callous and craven attacks.

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