The U.S. has a union member at the helm of the Department of Labor for the first time in almost 50 years. Part of the department’s mission is to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States.” With a union member leading the way, many in the labor movement believe workers will be better represented than in recent years.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast on the special Labor Day edition. Secretary Walsh discussed his upbringing in a union household, being selected to serve as Labor Secretary, how the department of labor will improve the standing of workers, multiemployer pension plans and more.
Growing up in a union household
Secretary Walsh discussed his upbringing in a union home. His father and uncle were prominent in shaping his interest in the Laborers Union and the labor movement. He spent time at the Laborers Local 223 union hall as a teenager learning about the various campaigns and efforts.
After spending some time in college, Secretary Walsh decided he was better fit as a Laborer. He would eventually leave college and join Local 223, following in his family’s footsteps. He would spend a few years in the field as a construction laborer before going to work for the Laborers Health and Welfare Fund.
Secretary Walsh would later find himself working in the Local 223 union hall as the Recording Secretary for a number of years before becoming President of the Local. Sec. Walsh later got involved in state politics before becoming the head of the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council.
Becoming the Secretary of Labor
Then Boston Mayor Walsh recounted the process of becoming the Secretary of Labor. He first received a call about beginning the vetting process for the job amongst a list of candidates.
He was then called by someone in Washington D.C. who asked if he would like to speak with President Biden. After congratulating the newly elected president, Walsh was then asked if he would like to serve as the Secretary of Labor. Overcome with excitement, Walsh accepted the nomination and the confirmation process began.
With Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate, Walsh had no problems sailing through confirmation.
Serving the workforce
After being confirmed, Sec. Walsh began the process of rebuilding the Department of Labor. After years of unfilled positions or unqualified workers, Sec. Walsh had work to do.
He spent much of his first months learning about the Department of Labor and how the department serves workers. He said the department is essentially a protection agency for all workers, so understanding the various components of the department has been vital.
Finally, Sec. Walsh applauded investment in multiemployer pension plans through the American Rescue Plan. He said more will be done to protect the pensions of retirees.