In a recent 68-29 vote, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Boston mayor Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary. Nominated last month, Walsh enjoyed bipartisan support as a number of Republicans on the HELP committee joined Democrats to vote 18-4 to send his nomination to the Senate.
Walsh’s confirmation makes him the first former union leader in almost 50 years to head the Department of Labor, and he has been a vocal proponent of unions and workers’ rights. A longtime friend and colleague of President Joe Biden, Walsh is anticipated to push the administration’s priorities for the workforce – including the hotly-debated effort to raise the Federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Walsh’s immigrant roots – his parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland – have largely informed his views on labor and workers’ rights. His parents worked hard throughout his childhood to pull their family into a middle-class socio-economic space, and Walsh credits unions for his parents’ steady work and upward mobility.
“Working people, labor unions, and those fighting every day for their shot at the middle class are the backbone of our economy and of this country," Walsh tweeted shortly after Biden announced his nomination.
Facing fallout from COVID-19, record unemployment figures, and an uneven economic recovery, Walsh’s nomination for U.S. Labor Secretary comes at a unique time in the United States. He has been outspoken about the need to better support essential workers and address unemployment and family leave.
"Mayor Walsh has worked tirelessly to rebuild the middle class, create a more inclusive, resilient economy, and fight for workers in his hometown — including fighting for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave," the Biden transition team said in a statement. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Walsh is working to support frontline workers, including funding emergency childcare and other resources essential workers need to weather the pandemic.”
For Federal contractors, Walsh’s confirmation means Secretary-level support for the enforcement priorities of OFCCP Directory Jenny Yang. Yang has signaled her interest in directing agency resources away from the focused review and compliance assistance approach of the prior administration and toward the in-depth analysis of contractor hiring and compensation practices through compliance enforcement. We predict the OFCCP will finalize the AAP verification portal and a compensation reporting requirement quickly, ushering in a new level of scrutiny of contractor practices.