Look Around, We Got A Labor Secretary Busting His Balls Doing A Lot Of Sh*t Work You Take For Granted
Former Boston mayor Marty Walsh was sworn in last night as Secretary of Labor, making him "the first card-carrying union member to hold the job in nearly 50 years," as WHDH-TV put it. Before being elected as Boston's mayor in 2014, Walsh led the Boston Building Trades Council, a group representing unions for ironworkers and electrical workers. He's belonged to a union since he was 21 years old. He resigned as mayor shortly before his swearing-in.
The Senate voted 68 to 29 Monday to confirm Walsh, who'll be a key player in President Joe Biden's plans to expand economic opportunity to American workers instead of keeping all the wealth in the investor class. After the vote Monday, Walsh held a presser in Boston where he thanked Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, adding, "I spent my entire career fighting for working people, and I'm eager to continue that fight in Washington."
Oh, what a fine class war it'll be! Also too, as Politico points out, Walsh is the final member of Biden's Cabinet to be confirmed, so there's yet another reason to be glad Georgia elected Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the Senate.
And what a welcome change from the previous Labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, who was infamously anti-worker. Before being picked for the job, Scalia — yes, yes relation — had argued on behalf of corporate clients that companies shouldn't be held liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor unless the company actually endorsed the supervisor's actions. He also thought there was nothing wrong with companies requiring workers with disabilities to shit themselves. Only a complete idiot could have picked that guy to lead the Labor Department.
At Labor, Walsh will be busy helping undo the damage the previous administration did and will also oversee pandemic-related emergency unemployment benefits. Those benefits will run through September after being extended in the American Rescue Plan, and while we've had emergency unemployment programs since the CARES Act passed last year, Politico notes Walsh will still have a challenge:
States have been struggling to reprogram their antiquated computer systems to pay out the aid, and some have just recently begun to pay out some of the benefits extended under the December aid package.
That may take some getting used to after living in a state with the best regular unemployment benefits in the country. But we bet Walsh already knows that several states' systems make unemployment insurance hard to access, by design.
Walsh will also oversee the implementation, a mere year late, of anticipated rules for workplace safety during the pandemic, at least once the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finalizes them. Biden had asked OSHA to release emergency temporary workplace safety standards by March 15, but the agency is still working on the details, which may include mask mandates of some sort. Perhaps Walsh needs to meet with OSHA heads and explain that under the new administration, it can actually put worker safety first instead of rolling over for corporate interests. They might not have heard.
During his confirmation hearings before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Walsh stressed his own experience as a labor leader in reaching agreements acceptable to workers and employers, and said OSHA should approach worker safety with an attitude of getting stuff done:
We should be working with OSHA, working with the administration, and working with members of this committee to talk about the importance of bringing OSHA back as an agency — that is, an agency to help workers and help employers and not put in the middle of both.
He also called for bringing back the 500 or so OSHA inspector jobs that were axed, and said that federal contractors should also be held responsible for worker safety.
During his campaign, Biden promised he'd be one of the most pro-worker, pro-union presidents the country's had. Walsh will have plenty to do on that front, from pushing for a $15 minimum wage to making sure federal contracts promote union representation. He seems like a pretty darn good guy for the job.
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