Marty Walsh, former mayor of Boston, was confirmed as labor secretary on Monday by 68 votes to 29. Walsh was the head of the Boston Building Trades Council before being elected mayor. He was elected after starting his working life in construction, a member of Workers’ Local 223, a local which he later headed. He looks like the stereotype of a member of a white working class union, doesn’t he? But Harold Meyerson argued that Walsh has been an effective, functioning bridge “to push the trades into the 21st century. As mayor, Walsh pushed the city council Endorse his proposal requiring construction companies working on public or private projects over 50,000 square feet to devote 51% of working hours to city residents, 40% to minorities and 12% to women. He also pushed the construction trades to support a multitude of progressive causes.
And learn about Walsh himself in a post-confirmation interview with The Washington Post, where he was candid about how systemic racism has affected workers of color: “Money is one of them, but look around many offices and see who is working there, who has opportunities. I mean, right after George floyd was killed I had a meeting with a group of people in my office called BEN, the Black Employee Network. And I just listened. And all the people who spoke to me spoke about the racism they experienced in their life, whether in work, in interviews, whether with the police, whether with society. I think it’s important right now to listen [and] be very intentional about the policies or actions we take. “
“Absolutely. There is no doubt” that Walsh himself benefited from white privilege, he said, and “white people shouldn’t be afraid of the word white privilege. It can be a complicated conversation to have, but we cannot run away from it.
We’ll see what he does, but having a longtime trade unionist who has spent years pushing one of the more conservative parts of the labor movement to progressive causes as Secretary of Labor looks promising.