Worker Advocates Rally Around Biden’s Labor Department Pick
(Mother Jones) President Donald Trump treated the labor seat in his cabinet like a sop to the executive class. By picking Boston mayor and former union leader Marty Walsh to lead the Department of Labor, President-elect Joe Biden has signaled an intention to give worker interests a place at his policy-making table.
Trump infamously tapped fast-food magnate Andy Puzder for the job, whose nomination ultimately collapsed under the weight of his anti-worker advocacy and sexist marketing campaigns. In 2019, Trump turned to “management-side” labor lawyer and corporate lobbyist Eugene Scalia for the role. When the coronavirus pandemic exploded in 2020, Scalia steadfastly rejected pleas from labor unions, occupational-safety experts, and US senators, to force employers in frontline industries to put in place emergency protective measures like strict social distancing and provision of masks—even as the virus ripped through meatpacking plants, farms, medical facilities, and supermarkets, killing hundreds of workers and exposing surrounding communities to the pathogen. Meanwhile, Scalia pushed to limit access to to federal unemployment benefits and publicly advocated against extending $600 weekly in federal unemployment payments after the CARES Act expired at the end of July.
Marty Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants who rose through the ranks of Boston’s Building and Construction Trades union before entering politics, presents quite a sharp contrast to Scalia, the son of the late right-wing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Labor and worker-safety advocates applauded the pick.
The Walsh appointment “sends a clear message that this administration is ready to fight for America’s frontline workers,” Marc Perrone, president of the the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said in a statement. The UFCW represents hundreds of thousands of workers in two of the industries hardest-hit by the coronavirus: meatpacking and grocery.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, left, with Joe Biden in 2019. President-elect Biden has tapped Walsh to run the Department of Labor.
Steven Senn/AP Photo