The Senate on Monday confirmed Martin J. Walsh, Boston mayor and former chairman of the city’s powerful building trade council, as labor secretary. The vote was 68-29.
The confirmation filled the final leadership role for the 15 executive departments in President Biden’s cabinet. Seven were filled out of nine other leadership roles at cabinet level.
In a post-vote statement, Mr. Walsh said he was grateful for the bipartisan support from the Senate and shared “the commitment of Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to building an economy that works for all”.
“I have campaigned for workers’ rights throughout my career and continue to work to ensure that everyone – especially those in our most marginalized communities – have unrestricted access to and benefit from economic opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace.” Mr Walsh said in the statement. “I believe we have to face this historic moment, and as the nation’s labor minister, I promise to help our economy rebuild better.”
Mr Walsh’s nomination had received high praise from union officials who were thrilled to have one of them overseeing the department, a historic rarity. Many union representatives see his close relationship with the president as an advantage for the working groups.
“Because he has mutual trust and respect for President Biden, he will be able to put workers’ concerns at the center of the national agenda,” said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee, in an email.
One of Mr Walsh’s top priorities as Secretary of Labor will be to revive the labor protection agency, which critics have accused of failing to protect workers during the pandemic. The security agency recently presented new guidelines to employers to protect workers from Covid-19 and is considering a new regulation to mandate security measures that were rejected by the Trump administration.
The department has already overturned a number of rules enacted by the Trump administration that have weakened worker protection. One of those rules would likely have assumed that most gig workers would be independent contractors rather than white-collar workers, making them ineligible for federal minimum wages and overtime wages.
Under Mr. Walsh, the department is tasked with making replacements for some of these rules. It will most likely result in other protections being expanded, such as raising the threshold, which is currently set at around $ 35,500, below which most workers are automatically entitled to one and a half hours of overtime.
As mayor, he offered assistance to undocumented immigrants who were being detained by federal officials. pressed contractors cancel at least 40 percent of their work on public works for racist minorities, and created gender-neutral bathrooms in the town hall.
“If you know Marty Walsh, you know he crossed racial and class lines and fought for all, really focusing on the vulnerable,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
According to an aide, Mr Walsh plans to step down as mayor on Monday night.