Pro-union politician confirmed as secretary of labor

By Jenny LescohierMarch 23, 2021

Martin J. Walsh resigned as mayor of Boston after the Senate confirmed his appointment as the new U.S. secretary of labor

Martin J. Walsh, the mayor of Boston and a former leader of the city’s building trades council, has been confirmed by the Senate as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The vote was 68 to 29.

According to media reports, Walsh has indicated one of his top priorities in his new role will be re-energizing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which critics have accused of failing to protect workers during the pandemic.

OSHA recently put out new guidance to employers on protecting workers from Covid-19 and is considering a new rule to mandate safety measures.

In response to the confirmation, Michael Bellaman, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), stated his organization’s commitment to fair and open competition as it aims to collaborate with the new administration.

“ABC’s member contractors know how to build and rebuild and will be essential to achieving the Biden administration’s goal to ‘Build Back Better,’” he said.

“As we collaborate with DOL to create environments for our workforce that prioritize safety and total human health, we believe our core values of fair and open competition, innovation and entrepreneurship can play a meaningful role in the administration’s efforts.”

Walsh’s nomination had won widespread praise from union officials, who were enthusiastic about having one of their own oversee the department. It has been reported that a number of union officials regard his close relationship with the president as an advantage for labor groups.

Bellaman noted that Walsh has a construction background and is familiar with its challenges and needs.

“I believe that as a public servant, Secretary Walsh understands the practical impact of federal regulations on state and local stakeholders. We look forward to working with him to create the landscape so that each worker and job creator can prosper in a safe and healthy environment.”

He added, “ABC urges him to work with us to create conditions that benefit the entire industry. By encouraging the participation of both union and open shop contractors, we can harness the strength and talent of our full construction industry to rebuild America, and the results will be more inclusive and ultimately more successful.”

Walsh’s confirmation represents another in a string of labor-friendly moves by the Biden administration, which recently reintroduced the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a sweeping labor rights bill designed to promote union organizing and give employees more power to participate in strikes, while weakening ‘right to work’ laws.

Bellaman said, “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.”

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