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President Joe Biden isn’t wasting any time in making good on his promise to be the “strongest labor president you’ve ever had.” He’s selected Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a 30-year member of LIUNA Local 223, as the next Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, Mayor Walsh would be the first union member to hold the nation’s top labor job in almost 50 years.

LIUNA General
President
Terry O’Sullivan

Walsh was elected mayor of Boston in 2014 and previously served as both president of Local 223 and the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council. He brings decades of experience with the construction industry and a deep knowledge of the hazards these workers face on the job on a daily basis.

“LIUNA is thrilled that President Biden chose a dues-paying, card-carrying, second-generation Laborer to be the next U.S. Secretary of Labor,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “His dedication and devotion to the labor movement are unquestioned. I’m confident he will be a powerful guardian for the health and safety of working men and women in every corner of this country.”

The LHSFNA also congratulates Mayor Walsh on his nomination and is proud that the most visible advocate for safety, health and workers’ rights on the job will be one of our own LIUNA members. This is an incredibly important time for workers across the U.S., as the COVID-19 pandemic has put millions of people out of work and caused widespread financial hardship. Millions more workers have continued to put their health at risk on a daily basis in essential and frontline jobs.

If his time as the mayor of Boston is any indication, Walsh is well-suited to handle these challenges. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Boston, Walsh oversaw the release of sector-specific instructions to guide employers on limiting the spread of the virus and protecting workers. These steps included wearing facial coverings, physical distancing, building healthcare capacity, staggering work shifts and improving ventilation. He’s also supported frontline workers by funding emergency child care and other resources essential workers needed during the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, Walsh fought for the $15 minimum wage in Boston, helped secure paid family leave for workers and has been a vocal advocate for investing in good-paying union jobs in the clean energy sector. In 2016, when two construction workers were killed in a trench that hadn’t been properly protected, Walsh moved quickly to pass an ordinance allowing the city to deny permits based on a company’s safety history. Last summer, after the death of George Floyd, Walsh launched several initiatives to increase equity and fight racial injustice in Boston. During his time in office, Mayor Walsh has made it clear that keeping workers safe and respecting workers rights is a requirement for doing business in Boston.

“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,” said Walsh after his nomination. “As Secretary of Labor, I’ll work just as hard for you as you do for your families and livelihoods. You have my word.”

One of Walsh’s first tasks as Secretary of Labor will likely be directing OSHA to make a decision about whether to develop and issue an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19. We covered the ongoing push for such a standard throughout 2020, including how federal OSHA’s approach to non-binding guidance put worker health at risk and put employers in a difficult position. With President Biden vowing to double the number of OSHA inspectors and ramp up enforcement of existing standards, it’s likely that Walsh will have more resources to work with to accomplish the agency’s goals.

Marty Walsh has never shied away from his union roots. He is proud of his union background and is dedicated to improving the lives of all working people. His track record in Boston makes that clear. We look forward to seeing what he can accomplish as our next U.S. Secretary of Labor.

[Nick Fox]

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