Special Topics in Safety Management

Marty Walsh’s Labor Nomination: Expect Action on Worker Safety

On January 7, President-Elect Joseph Biden named Boston Mayor Marty Walsh his nominee for secretary of Labor. Walsh would be the first labor union member to serve as labor secretary in nearly half a century, according to the Biden-Harris transition team. Before turning to politics, Walsh held a number of labor union leadership positions, heading up both the Laborers’ Union Local 223 and the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council.

Department of Labor (DOL) building

Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

Early actions out of a Biden administration Labor Department could include an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for workplace COVID-19 exposures, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

The NAM said it had already begun outreach to the incoming administration to discuss safety protocols and best practices that manufacturers have implemented during the pandemic. The group speculated that a federal ETS could include requirements for written plans, hazard assessments, testing, recordkeeping and reporting, and paid sick leave and pay for the time required for employee testing.

The group said it would ensure the incoming administration understands the impact of an ETS on the production of vaccines and therapeutic treatments, supply chains, and essential manufacturing operations.

Four states—California, Oregon, Michigan, and Virginia —issued their own ETSs last year. California’s, which includes requirements to provide face coverings, testing, and sick leave, may be the most onerous for employers.

The incoming administration also announced the nominations of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce, Don Graves for deputy secretary of commerce, and Isabel Guzman for small business administrator.

“This team will help us emerge from the most inequitable economic and jobs crisis in modern history by building an economy where every American is in on the deal,” Biden said in a statement. “They share my belief that the middle class built this country and that unions built the middle class.”

“The Teamsters are elated with President-elect Biden’s nomination of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as the next Secretary of Labor,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement.

“Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will be an exceptional labor secretary for the same reason he was an outstanding mayor–he carried the tools,” American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka said in a statement.

“As a longtime union member, Walsh knows that collective bargaining is essential to building back better by combating inequality, beating COVID-19, and expanding opportunities for immigrants, women, and people of color,” Trumka said.

“We are awed and inspired that the top labor post in our great country will be occupied by one of our own LIUNA [the Laborers’ International Union of North America] brothers,” Terry O’Sullivan, the LIUNA’s general president, said in a statement.

“Marty Walsh has made his deep roots in the Trade Union Movement a central part of his political career, proudly wearing his union affiliation on his sleeve, and displaying his union card wherever he goes,” O’Sullivan said.

“Marty Walsh will restore and re-energize the Department of Labor’s role as a powerful guardian of workers, and strong and effective enforcer of labor laws,” he continued.

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