Boston Mayor Has Major Union Backing in Race to Be Labor Chief

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is drawing support from top union leaders in the intensifying contest to become Joe Biden’s labor secretary.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been reaching out this week to seek union leaders’ support for endorsing Walsh, according to labor officials familiar with the conversations, and the union federation could formally back him as soon as this week. Walsh’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment and the AFL-CIO declined to comment.

“I think Marty Walsh is a great idea for labor secretary,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. She said Walsh, a former head of Boston’s Building and Construction Trades Council, both understands labor and has a close relationship with the president-elect, which would be important in advancing a pro-labor agenda.

Boston Mayor Has Major Union Backing in Race to Be Labor Chief

Weingarten, who herself is seen by some labor officials as a contender for U.S. education secretary, said the AFL-CIO is compiling names to be shared with the transition team. She said she discussed Walsh with Trumka on Tuesday, and that the AFL-CIO president “normally operates in a way that brings consensus together.”

Lee Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said Wednesday that his union is backing Walsh as well.

“He is a card-carrying union member who has executive experience running a large city,” Saunders said in a statement. “There’s no doubt he’d be a high profile and passionate fighter for worker’s rights.” AFSCME and AFT are the two largest unions in the AFL-CIO.

Trumka’s push for Walsh comes as other labor leaders in his federation have gone public with their support for other potential Labor Department chiefs. The head of the Communications Workers of America on Monday announced his backing for Michigan Representative and former union organizer Andy Levin. Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen said Tuesday he’d be thrilled to see Levin or Senator Bernie Sanders as labor secretary. Others seen as contenders for the role include California Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary Julie Su.

A spokesperson for the Biden-Harris transition team said Wednesday that it “has not made any personnel decisions at this time.”

AFL-CIO spokesperson Tim Schlittner said in a Monday email that Trumka wanted a labor secretary to have clout with the president-elect and congressional leaders. Biden presided over Walsh’s swearing-in for a second term as mayor in 2018 and Walsh promoted Biden’s economic plan in New Hampshire last summer.

While the AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 U.S. unions, is expected to recommend people to the Biden transition team for labor and other cabinet positions, some unions have also been voicing their own preferences directly to the transition team.

The two largest U.S. unions, the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union, are not part of the AFL-CIO and have so far not publicly endorsed candidates for labor secretary.

“We are working with the Biden-Harris transition to ensure that there are strong advocates for unions at the table in the cabinet,” NEA’s president Becky Pringle said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

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