On March 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed the Presidential nomination of Boston mayor Marty Walsh as Secretary of the Department of Labor. The vote was 68 to 29, demonstrating bipartisan support.
A former union boss, Walsh first joined the Laborers’ Union Local 223 at age 21. By 2011, he had risen to lead the Boston Trades Council, a group that represents construction unions. Walsh has served as Boston’s mayor since 2014.
Walsh also advocated for a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour and committed to enforcing employee benefits plans’ compliance with a federal mandate to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment at levels similar to medical and surgical treatment. While lacking direct oversight of the National Labor Relations Board, Walsh has supported the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or the PRO Act, a broad overhaul of federal labor law recently reintroduced by Democrats that would revamp and strengthen the National Labor Relations Act by expanding remedies against employers that violate workers’ rights, nullifying state laws letting workers refuse to pay dues, and much more.
Several Republicans raised questions about Walsh’s support for labor-friendly policies. Walsh responded by reiterating that he would take a balanced look at the issues. He has a reputation as a deal-maker who can bring parties together, and he is one of the few serving on a Presidential Cabinet who can say they have been shot – and not while serving in the military.
Walsh’s confirmation is another step toward the roll out of more employee-friendly and pro-union policies under the Biden Administration. Under Walsh, employers should expect a reversal of Trump-era rule making, increased union activity, heightened OSHA enforcement, and an increase of other DOL measures designed to support employees in the workplace.