Walsh Tapped by Biden to Serve as Labor Secretary

Last Thursday President-Elect Joe Biden nominated Boston Mayor Martin Walsh to serve as Secretary of Labor, a cabinet position Biden said will be one of the most important in his administration.  

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate Mayor Walsh would begin his term on or after January 20. 

Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants from County Galway, grew up in Dorchester and joined the Laborers Union Local 223 at age 21. 

He was elected State Representative in 1997 and Mayor of Boston in 2013. 

“For Secretary of Labor, I nominate Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston,” said Biden at a press conference with Walsh last week. “He is now in his second term as the successful mayor of an iconic American city, and who always puts working people first–fighting for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave and providing frontline workers with emergency child care and the protective equipment they need. Marty (Walsh) understands like I do that the middle class built this country and unions built the middle class.”

Biden said Walsh has seen how union workers have been holding the country together during COVID crisis. 

“Health care workers keeping our hospitals safe, clean, and effective. Public service workers fighting against budget shortfalls to keep communities afloat. Port workers, car haulers, warehouse workers, and folks keeping our air and rail systems running. They are literally what’s keeping us going,” said Biden. “And they deserve a Secretary of Labor who knows how to build their power as workers. Who knows that when I say our future will be made in America, it will be a future built by American workers. A future with historic investments in infrastructure, clean energy, manufacturing, and so much more that will create millions of good-paying union jobs.”

Biden said Walsh knows what “worker power” means not just protecting the right to unionize but encouraging unionization and collective bargaining.

“It means protecting pensions. Ensuring worker safety. Increasing the minimum wage.Ensuring workers are paid for the overtime they earned, like we fought to do in the Obama-Biden Administration, but this Administration weakened. And making sure that we have a trade policy where for every decision we make, unions are at the table, focused on winning good jobs for American workers,” said Biden. “This is one of the most important departments to me. I trust Mayor Walsh, and I’m honored he accepted.”

At the press conference Walsh thanked Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris for the opportunity to serve the American people

“My mother and father came to this country as immigrants from Galway,” said Walsh. “They brought with them their willing hands, their honest hearts and hopes of the American dream. But all they needed, because my father joined the Laborers Union in Boston, was that opportunity. That’s why my parents were able to raise my brother John and myself with dignity and security. In the multiethnic, multiracial working class neighborhood of Dorchester I followed my father into that union. I learned what it took to turn an honest day’s work into an honest day’s pay. I saw what fighting for good jobs, good benefits, and a safe workplace does for the lives of hard working men and women and their families. I have fought for working people every single day of my life since then.”

Walsh said that we’re at a crossroads in America and it is a period of great hardship. 

“Working people are holding this country together right now,” said Walsh. “I’ve seen it up close as Mayor of Boston.  Health care workers, first responders, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, postal workers, sanitation workers, custodians are all coming through for us under impossible conditions. But this isn’t just because of the COVID crisis or the economic crisis that threatens their well being. Working people have been struggling for a long time. Under the erosion of their rights and the deep inequalities of race, gender and class for the last four years they’ve been under assault.  The unions that built the middle class are facing hard times but nobody’s taller than the American worker. Now we have the opportunity to put power back in the hands of working people all across this country. We can defend workers rights, we can strengthen collective bargaining. We can grow union membership. We can create millions of good paying jobs with investments in infrastructure, clean energy, and in high tech manufacturing, along with the workforce training to help get those people into those good jobs.”

Walsh said the Biden-Harris Administration will ensure an investment in the working people of America. 

“I look forward to working with you (Biden) to deliver good jobs with dignity, security, prosperity and purpose to all American families,” said Walsh. “And I  look forward to working with this entire administration shoulder to shoulder with American workers to build back our country.”

In a statement, the Greater Boston Building Trades Unions applauded the choice of Walsh as Secretary of Labor. 

“We have seen firsthand the incredible work that incoming U.S. Secretary of Labor Walsh has done to build the middle class and to improve the lives of workers across industries in his time as the President of Laborers Local Union 223, as a legislator, as leader of our Boston Building Trades Unions, as Mayor, and as someone who has dedicated his life to combatting inequities and to building a more just future and a more just economy for all,” they union said. 

Darlene Lombos, Chief Officer and Executive Secretary/Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council released said, “Walsh is an exceptional choice for Labor Secretary in the Biden administration. Mayor Walsh will take his union card to Washington and lead with the pro-worker values that he has so steadfastly demonstrated during his tenure as Mayor of Boston. Marty Walsh will continue to protect and expand workers’ rights, improve health and safety, and be a champion for all workers.”

Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven A. Tolman added, “Marty Walsh is a champion of working people and is a perfect pick to lead the Department of Labor. From my time working side by side with Marty Walsh both in the legislature and as the President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, I have seen the unmatched level of care and passion he brings to fighting for working people every day. His service and record as a dedicated labor leader, legislator, and Mayor of Boston provides overwhelming evidence that he will be a terrific Secretary of Labor.”

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