Continuing with his anticipated array of high-profile appointments, President Biden has tapped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to serve as Secretary of Labor in the new administration. Serving as Mayor since 2014, Walsh has established a proven track record of supporting workers across the income spectrum, fighting to raise the minimum wage in Boston, boost apprenticeship programs, and ensuring that local workers are favored in major construction projects. He has also been successful in securing Department of Labor grants for the city.
While there were several contenders in the final run for the cabinet post, Walsh has a history of both collaboration and fundraising with President Biden, and as a former union official, had drawn major union support for his nomination – AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka applauded the decision, noting that “from the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council to the Massachusetts State House to the mayor’s office to his own personal journey with overcoming addiction, Marty Walsh has always been a fighter who understands the power of working people standing together for a better life.”
Like every member of the new administration, the new Labor Secretary will face a myriad of challenges stemming in large part form the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. With businesses shuttered and job losses reaching the millions over the past year, the D.o.L. will likely take on a much more prominent and public-facing role than any time in recent memory. Beyond the immediate economic crises, among the many challenges facing the Department will include the unemployment insurance crisis in many states, OSHA revisions for frontline workers in the light of the pandemic, and additional stimulus options. Furthermore, it is likely that there will be a renewed and prominent debate on the status of gig workers and other independent contractors.
In addition to these issues, the new leadership at the Department of Labor will have to make decisions regarding rules and regulations put into place by the outgoing Trump administration. Of particular significance to pension beneficiaries are two recently enacted rules regarding the clarification of ESG investing and the role of proxy advisory firms in ERISA-backed pension funds. IPFI has written about both rules previously, and we believe that both take a nonpartisan and forward-thinking approach to pension fund investment. Given all of the other challenges facing the economy in general, and pension beneficiaries in particular, it is our hope that Walsh will continue the work done by his predecessors to fight for stable returns on pension investments.
IPFI offers its congratulations to Mayor Walsh, and we look forward to collaborating with the Department of Labor in the months and years to come.