The 53-year-old union operative has a long relationship with Biden and served as a state representative and president of the Laborers’ Union Local 223 before becoming mayor seven years ago. A well-connected Bostonian told me Walsh is “a genuine guy, hard working, smart in an earthy way” and has a “very good rapport with people.”
The American Federation of Teachers and the Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees threw their weight behind Walsh, also the favorite of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said Walsh brings a “pro-worker vision” and called him a “champion for working people.”
If confirmed, Walsh would oversee a department coping with millions out of work, and a narrowly divided Congress poised to debate Biden’s legislative initiatives.
Race-obsessed reporters claimed Walsh’s selection “suggests that Biden was willing to overlook calls for a diversity choice, since Walsh is a white man.”
Republicans could provide hurdles to confirmation. Two of Walsh’s aides were convicted of extortion in 2019, accused of withholding permits to a music festival unless the organizer hired union workers; this was a political favor to Walsh.
“Unfortunately, President-elect Biden’s nomination of Marty Walsh to lead the Department of Labor raises significant concerns about the federal government’s role in shaping the future of our evolving workforce,” said North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, also the Education and Labor Committee’s ranking member.
Walsh’s two closest competitors for the job were Andy Levin and Julie Su.
Levin is a legacy politician. The Michigan congressman succeeded his father, Sandy, and is also the nephew of retired Sen. Carl Levin. The United Auto Workers recommended Biden appoint Levin, touting his record of “inspiring and leading people to create effective change.” He was Michigan’s chief workforce officer and a former organizer for the Service Employees.
As secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Su was preferred by the United Farm Workers of America and activist labor groups.
Biden’s team reportedly sought a compromise with Su as deputy labor secretary, but she expressed reservations about a Walsh-Su rollout. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent Biden a letter signed by more than 100 Democrat lawmakers urging him to select Su for the No. 1 spot.
But during Su’s tenure, her agency endured “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history,” when following months of unpaid unemployment insurance benefits, it paid almost $1 billion in fraudulent benefits to California prison inmates.
In the Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib pointed out Biden didn’t choose any Republican Cabinet members to fulfill his “president for all Americans” pledge. It’s a reminder that 74 million Americans voted against the Biden-Harris ticket. In the same newspaper, Karl Rove recently reminded the president-elect to adopt a conciliatory tone. (Biden’s angry speech yesterday also seemed divisive.)
Unlike George W. Bush (Normal Mineta), Barack Obama (Chuck Hagel, Ray LaHood) and Donald Trump (Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn, Steven Mnuchin, Peter Navarro), Biden didn’t hire people with opposing views; considering how the media and senior staff feel about bipartisanship, maybe it’s no surprise.