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Pool Report from Senate Hearing

Senate Confirms Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary

Walsh is the first union member to lead the department in half a century

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 23, 2021

Three months into his Presidency, Joe Biden has become the first President in 30 years to have all of his first choices for Cabinet picks approved. This happened after the Senate confirmed Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary on Monday night.

By confirming Walsh, Biden has selected the first union member to lead the Department of Labor in half a century. Walsh, who resigned his position last night as the Mayor of Boston to take over as Labor Secretary, is a card-carrying member of the Laborers Union. He was first a member of Laborer's Local 223, before being elected to lead the local. He later became the President of the Boston Building Trades Council.

Walsh has touted the important role unions have played in his life story. When he was a child, Walsh survived lymphoma and has said that he owes his recovery to the union health coverage that he had through his father’s work as a laborer. Then in his twenties, as he struggled with alcoholism, it was once again his union who stepped up and helped him get his life back on track. In the lead-up to his confirmation hearing last month Walsh reflected on the role unions played in his family. "I thought about my uncle and my father talking at the kitchen table on Sundays about fighting for the rights of workers, about making sure that jobs were there so that people wouldn't be unemployed," he said. He also vowed to keep fighting for families like his so they wouldn’t "have to have benefit dances to support union brothers and sisters because their kids were sick or somebody died."

Walsh’s confirmation was praised by the labor community.

“Secretary Walsh is a dues-paying, card-carrying, second-generation member of the Laborers’ International Union of North America whose dedication and devotion to the cause, the purpose, and the mission of the Labor Movement is unwavering,” said LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan. “I am confident that he will restore and re-energize the Department of Labor’s role as a powerful guardian of workers, and strong and effective enforcer of labor laws. He will fight for all working people, regardless of where they come from, what language they speak, or what kind of work they do. He will work to bring skills training and a stronger voice on the job to millions of American workers who too often have been exploited or disregarded.”

In a statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the labor federation congratulated Walsh saying that “it’s difficult to overstate the importance of this moment.” They continued saying they look forward to working with Walsh on a number of policy issues including a 21st Century infrastructure plan that provides good union jobs, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and passing the PRO Act.

In a statement from Walsh following the Senate vote to approve his nomination, Walsh said:

“I am incredibly honored and privileged to serve as the United States’ next Secretary of Labor. I am grateful for the bipartisan support of members of the Senate, and I want to thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for their confidence in my ability to lead the Department of Labor during such a critical time in our nation’s history.”

“As the son of immigrants and a former union laborer, I share their deep commitment to building an economy that works for all. I have been a fighter for the rights of working people throughout my career, and I remain committed to ensuring that everyone – especially those in our most marginalized communities – receives and benefits from full access to economic opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace. I believe we must meet this historic moment and, as the nation’s Secretary of Labor, I pledge to help our economy build back better.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Walsh received praise from both sides of the aisle. "After four years of a Trump Labor Department that did its best to undermine workers, Marty will be a secretary of labor who actually supports labor," said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Even the ranking Republican on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Richard Burr (R-NC) said "Tom Brady has proven that a Massachusetts guy can hop on I-95, go south and do good things." Walsh was confirmed by a vote of 68-29.

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