Politics

Joe Biden has officially nominated Marty Walsh to be his labor secretary

It's no longer speculation.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Following weeks of speculation, President-elect Joe Biden has officially picked Mayor Marty Walsh to be his labor secretary.

Biden’s transition team announced the nomination in a press release Thursday night, along with several other appointees for top economic posts in the incoming Democratic administration.

“They will work to dig us out from the worst, most unequal jobs crisis in nearly a century by supporting small businesses and rebuilding the backbone of America — our middle class,” Biden’s team wrote in a tweet.

If confirmed, Walsh would be the first union member to serve as Labor secretary in nearly half a century, the press release said. He’d also be the second Boston mayor to ascend to the position after Maurice Tobin, who served under President Harry Truman.

“Working people, labor unions, and those fighting every day for their shot at the middle class are the backbone of our economy and of this country,” Walsh tweeted after the announcement Thursday night. “As Secretary of Labor, I’ll work just as hard for you as you do for your families and livelihoods. You have my word.”

Walsh’s nomination was first reported Thursday afternoon by Politico.

His office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Boston.com on Wednesday.

A former Building and Construction Trades Council leader, Walsh received early support from the heads of several national unions after the November election.

Walsh, who was also president of Laborers Local 223 and has been a friend of Biden’s since becoming mayor in 2013, had reportedly been the president-elect’s top choice for some time.

However, Biden has consistently said he will appoint the most diverse cabinet in the nation’s history and faced calls to follow-through on that commitment, especially for the Department of Labor.

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Late last month, Bloomberg Law reported Biden narrowed his candidates to Walsh, a 53-year-old Boston native and son of Irish immigrants, and California Labor Secretary Julie Su, the preferred pick of several Asian American/Pacific Islander lawmakers and groups.

As reports swirled, Walsh said little about being Biden’s frontrunner for the job. 

On Tuesday, he told reporters he remained focused on Boston’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and declined to answer whether he would accept the position if offered to him.

“I don’t want to speculate on something like that,” he said. “That’s all speculation.”

Should he accept, the Dorchester Democrat would need to be formally nominated by Biden and undergo the Senate approval process. With the Georgia runoff elections cementing a Democrat-majority in the chamber, Biden could potentially see a smooth confirmation of his prospective cabinet.

In the event Walsh leaves for Washington, D.C., City Council President Kim Janey would be acting mayor until Walsh’s successor is elected. She would be the first woman and person of color to serve as the city’s chief executive.

Walsh’s possible departure also stands to shake up the mayoral race now underway. 

While the sitting mayor had yet to announce whether he would indeed seek a third term, City Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell entered the contest last fall.

On Wednesday, both congratulated Walsh — who still has a hefty campaign war chest of at least $6 million — amid the reports he is Biden’s pick.

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“He will be the first union member to serve in this role in nearly 50 years and his leadership will come at a critical time for the labor movement,” Wu said. “There is much work to do to clean up the backwards, anti-worker policies of the Trump administration that have hurt so many here in our city, and Boston needs a partner to fight for working families at the federal level.”

On Twitter, Campbell said the secretary of labor is “a fitting role for someone who has spent his entire career fighting for working people in and out of public service.”

“For Boston, there’s so much at stake in 2021 as we look to recover from this pandemic and reimagine what our city can be without persistent inequities,” Campbell said. “I know Mayor Walsh will be a partner in that work in this new role.”

The news also set off an outpouring of congratulatory remarks from across the Massachusetts political spectrum. Here’s how officials have reacted:

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey 

“Fantastic news. As a union leader, @marty_walsh will bring the commitment to workers and working families that is desperately needed right now. His tremendous leadership in Boston on climate action, health care, and social justice make him ready on day 1.”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren 

“My friend Mayor @Marty_Walsh is a champion for America’s labor unions and a fierce fighter for working families. I am delighted that President-elect Biden has chosen Marty as our next @USDOL Secretary to make our government work for working people.”

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Gov. Charlie Baker

“We obviously have had, for the past six years now, a really positive, collaborative working relationship with Mayor Walsh and his team,” Baker told reporters during a press conference Wednesday. “On many, many issues, our ability to work together has made a big difference for the city and the surrounding environment. And I consider him somebody who I can be very straight with on pretty much anything we talked about.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal 

“I am thrilled to hear that Mayor Marty Walsh has been chosen for our new Labor Secretary. Throughout his career he has been a champion for worker’s rights and I am confident that he will succeed in this new position in the Biden Administration. I look forward to working closely with him in his new role.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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