The Senate confirmed Marty Walsh as secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL) on Monday with a 68 to 29 vote in favor of the Boston Mayor and former leader at the Laborers’ Union Local 223.
As head of the DOL, Walsh will oversee both OSHA and MSHA.
“I have been a fighter for the rights of working people throughout my career, and I remain committed to ensuring that everyone – especially those in our most marginalized communities – receives and benefits from full access to economic opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace,” Walsh said in a DOL news release.
Walsh spoke about his own life experiences during his confirmation hearing, offering some insight into his view of the work he’ll be doing at the DOL.
“Workers’ protection, equal access to good jobs, the right to join a union, continuing education and job training, access to mental health and substance use treatment. These are not just policies to me, I lived them,” Walsh said, according to CNN.
The National Safety Council (NSC) issued a news release Tuesday congratulating Walsh.
“With the number of preventable workplace deaths rising, and the pandemic presenting the greatest workplace safety challenge in a century, the Department of Labor needs strong leadership more than ever. Secretary Walsh will provide such guidance,” the NSC says in the news release.
His history with safety
In 2016, as Mayor of Boston, Walsh filed an ordinance to give the city the right to deny, revoke or suspend a work permit based on the applicant’s OSHA history.
Walsh’s proposal came shortly after two workers were killed in Boston when a trench they were working in flooded. The workers’ employer had been cited previously by OSHA for safety violations.
Focus for near future?
As the Secretary of Labor, he’s likely to aggressively advocate for tighter silica dust rules because his father’s health was impacted by dust exposure on the job at construction sites.
Walsh and the “new face of OSHA, Jim Frederick,” are both former union officials and are known to be pro-union, so the AFL-CIO Top 5 wish list, released in February, could carry some weight in the new DOL, according to one safety expert.