Douglas P. Nelson, Business Manager
A New Era at the Department of Labor
Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was sworn in as U.S. labor secretary on March 23, the first union member in 45 years to lead the Department of Labor.
Eighteen Republican senators joined all Democrats to support Walsh’s nomination, voting 68-29 to confirm him.
"I spent my entire career fighting for working people, and I'm eager to continue that fight in Washington,” Walsh said.
Walsh’s confirmation as an unabashed union advocate is historic — an irony that Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown pointed out on the Senate floor before the vote.
“Too many people in this town don’t know what it’s like not to have a voice on the job. They don’t understand collective bargaining and the power that a union card gives you over your career and your finances and your future,” Brown said.
“Marty Walsh does understand it. Like President Biden, he’s not afraid to talk about the labor movement; he doesn’t recoil from using the word ‘union.’”
Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, followed his father and uncle into Laborers Local 223 and its leadership. He went on to head the Greater Boston Building Trades coalition, while also serving 16 years in the Massachusetts Legislature.
IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson said that choosing Walsh is one of the many ways that President Biden is keeping his campaign promises to help American workers.
“He chose someone from the union movement, not just someone who supports us from the outside,” he said. “As much as we greatly need and appreciate every ally we have, there’s a difference when you understand something because you’ve lived it. All workers, union and nonunion, are better off now that Marty Walsh has their backs.”
Stephenson and IBEW leaders who have worked directly with Walsh for decades in Massachusetts stress that by standing with workers he has spurred economic progress and development, not hindered it.
President Biden has nominated California Labor Commissioner Julie Su as deputy of labor a secretary. Su is also a solid labor ally and defender of union rights.