Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 68-29 vote on March 22 to be secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Labor. A member of the Laborers' International Union of North America and a former president of a LIUNA Boston local, he will lead the department at a time when some of the Biden administration’s pro-worker and pro-union agenda items are moving through Congress.
Walsh spoke in favor of The Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO, Act, during his confirmation hearing on Feb. 4, calling it “one step towards helping people to organize freely.” The PRO Act passed the House on March 9.
Organized labor supports the measure, but major contracting groups are opposed.
Michael Bellaman, Associated Builders and Contractors' president and CEO, said in a statement, “ABC’s aim will continue to be creating value for the taxpayer through employee and employer choice, because we believe workers and job creators should have the freedom to choose how to achieve their career dreams in union or nonunion environments and the opportunity to win and deliver work based on merit."
Walsh also noted in his confirmation hearing that he supports boosting the number of federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration inspectors.
Walsh was confirmed with Senate Democrats joined by a large percentage of Republicans, including Richard Burr (N.C.), the top GOP senator on the Health Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.
“The Dept. of Labor serves an immensely important role in our economy and in the lives of the American people, especially in the midst of a pandemic with unemployment at 6.7% and 12.6 million Americans unemployed,” Burr said, prior to the vote. “This is a job that needs filling.”
Burr noted that he didn’t expect to agree on everything with Walsh, but added that “we should be able to find places that we can agree in a bipartisan way.”
Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions, said in a statement, "Mayor Walsh's leadership will ensure America's workforce has an ally at the Dept. of Labor who supports a strong 'workers first' safety agenda at OSHA and increased funding for workforce development and training, so that after earning a hard day's wage and middle class benefits, they can come home safely to their loved ones."