Metro, Politics, Boston

Biden Selects Walsh for Secretary of Labor

President-elect Joseph R. Biden tapped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, BC ’09, to his cabinet as Labor Secretary on Thursday. Walsh’s background as a union worker and labor leader, and his long-standing relationship with Biden, made him a likely candidate for the position. 

Pending his acceptance of the position and Senate confirmation, Walsh would be the first union member to serve in this position in almost half a century, according to a statement from the Biden transition team on Thursday.

“Mayor Walsh has worked tirelessly to rebuild the middle class, create a more inclusive, resilient economy, and fight for workers in his hometown — including fighting for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave,” the statement reads. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Walsh is working to support frontline workers, including funding emergency child care and other resources essential workers need to weather the pandemic.” 

In 2018, Biden swore Walsh in for his second term as mayor of Boston. Walsh also campaigned for Biden in New Hampshire last year, advocating that Biden would be a “pro-union” president.

Biden has also appeared alongside Walsh during historic moments in the City of Boston, including the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2014 and for the Massachusetts Stop & Shop Strike in 2019

In a Tweet following his appointment, Walsh voiced his commitment to American workers and his readiness to take on the position of Labor Secretary. 

Walsh has been a trailblazer for the inclusion of communities of color in trade unions, stressing that it is important to recognize both the middle class and low-wage workers as essential to labor, according to Erin O’Brien, an associate professor of political science at University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Biden and Walsh share a similar background, O’Brien said.

“They have a good working relationship,” O’Brien said in a press conference. “Joe Biden’s a son of labor, and has seen what can go wrong in a working class household when the job is lost. Marty Walsh shares that view.” 

In response to Walsh’s appointment, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, outgoing Congressman Joe Kennedy III, and U.S. Senator Ed Markey all tweeted their congratulations and support. 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker also congratulated Walsh in a press conference Thursday, commending him for his impact as mayor.

“On many, many issues our ability to work together has made a big difference for the city and its surrounding environs, and I consider him somebody I can be pretty straight with on anything we talk about,” Baker said. “If he does take this job, obviously we’ll wish him well and do everything we can to make sure that in the midst of this difficult time that we transition effectively and quickly and collaboratively to whomever his successor would be.”

If Walsh accepts the Cabinet appointment and receives Senate confirmation, Boston City Council President Kim Janey will serve as acting mayor until a special election is held to elect a new mayor. Janey will be the first Black person and first woman to serve as mayor. 

“Should Mayor Walsh be confirmed by the Senate, I am ready to take the reins and lead our city through these difficult times,” Janey said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Walsh administration and my colleagues on the Council to ensure a smooth transition, as we address the unprecedented challenges facing our city.” 

The length of time Janey holds the position will depend on when Walsh leaves office. 

If Walsh vacates the office by March 5, a special election will be held 120 to 140 days after his departure. The winner will serve the remainder of Walsh’s term, which lasts until next January. If Walsh leaves office after March 5, Janey will remain as acting Mayor until his term is over. 

City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu are currently campaigning for the 2021 mayoral election, which is still open to other candidates. If elected, either would become the first woman and person of color elected to mayor in Boston. Both candidates also offered congratulations in response to Walsh’s appointment.

“There is much work to do to clean up the backwards, anti-worker policies of the Trump administration that have hurt so many here in the city,” Wu said on Thursday. “And, Boston needs a partner to fight for working families at the federal level.”

Campbell referenced the divisions in the nation and in Boston that have been underscored by the pandemic and the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday. 

“For Boston, there’s so much at stake in 2021 as we look to recover from this pandemic and reimagine what our city can be without persistent inequities,” Campbell said. “I know Mayor Walsh will be a partner in that work in this new role.”

If more candidates join the race, a preliminary election will be held to narrow the race to two final contenders. Depending on when Walsh leaves office, the final mayoral race will be a special election or will be held as originally scheduled on Nov. 2.

Featured Image by Johnathan Ye / Heights Senior Staff

January 8, 2021