Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a longtime Laborers' union member and former building trades regional executive, is set to serve as U,S, Labor Secretary—a key role in the Biden administration cabinet as the president-elect seeks to fulfill campaign pledges to strengthen the unions’ ability to bargain, organize and grow, according to an advisory released by President-elect Joe Biden to introduce members of his economic and jobs team.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will introduce the nominees, including Walsh, on Jan. 8 during an event in Wilmington, Del.
Walsh is considered both a close friend of Biden and the favored pick of national labor leaders.
“As a longtime union member, Walsh knows that collective bargaining is essential to building back better,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “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."
Biden’s choice of Walsh is further evidence of the president-elect’s vocal support of organized labor, including pledges to be “the most pro-union” president and take steps to aid unions in their efforts to organize and recruit members.
Biden was on hand to swear in Walsh at the start of his second term as Boston mayor in 2018.
If confirmed as Labor Secretary, Walsh, 53, will oversee the enforcement of the nation’s workplace laws, from overtime payment to health and safety regulations.and prevailing wages on federal work.
Walsh joined Laborers’ Union Local 223 in the late 1980s, working on a number of projects across Boston, including the World Trade Center on the city’s waterfront.
He later became president of the local, before heading the Building & Construction Trades Council in Boston, and served 17 years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives before winning election as Boston mayor in 2013.
Some business leaders in the city were initially wary of the prospect of a labor leader as mayor, but Walsh proved to be a strong supporter of development projects and the union construction jobs they created.
“Mayor Marty Walsh has overseen the greatest boom in real estate development in the city’s history,” said David Begelfer, principal of consulting firm Strategic Advisors and former president of NAIOP Massachusetts, which represents developers across the state.
Les Hiscoe, CEO of Boston-based Shawmut Design and Construction, agreed.
“For the past seven years, Mayor Walsh has worked to make Boston America’s city of opportunity and shown above and beyond dedication to the built environment. Whether it’s rejecting racism and bigotry, or his commitment to development, affordable housing, and economic growth, Mayor Walsh has made Boston the most dynamic, productive, and inclusive city it’s ever been. His determination is unwavering, and it remains clear that he will serve our country honorably.”
Other national labor union leaders were quick to endorse Biden’s apparent pick for Labor Secretary, which the transition team has yet to formalize, but is being widely reported.
“Marty Walsh is a living embodiment of the American dream: he worked his way up from the field to become a leader of his local union, the head of the Boston Metropolitan Building Trades Council, Mayor of Boston, and now, U.S. Secretary of Labor,” said Terry O’Sullivan, Laborers' union general president.