By DON McINTOSH
It wasn’t official as of press time, but on Feb. 7 the news broke and was widely reported that former union leader Marty Walsh will be stepping down as U.S. labor secretary to take a job as executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) at a salary expected to be about $3 million a year.
Walsh, 55, was mayor of Boston when Joe Biden named him Labor Secretary in January 2021. Before that, he was president of Laborers Local 223 and secretary-treasurer of the Boston Building Trades Council. He was the first union member to serve as labor secretary since 1977.
As labor secretary, he’s been in charge of over 17,000 federal employees who administer and enforce over 180 federal laws, including laws on minimum wage and overtime, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, and Davis-Bacon prevailing wage. Now he’ll lead collective bargaining for 725 professional hockey players in Canada and the United States when their contract comes up for renegotiation in 2026. NHLPA is not an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Walsh is a big fan of the Boston Bruins hockey team.
Walsh was the only Biden cabinet member not present at the Feb. 7 State of the Union address. Instead, he was listed as the ‘designated survivor’—due to become president in the event a catastrophe took the lives of the president, vice president, and nine others more senior in the line of succession.
At press time, there was no indication yet of who Biden will nominate to replace Walsh. Speculation was that he might appoint deputy labor secretary Julie Su, former California Labor Secretary. But former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was reportedly pushing Sean Patrick Maloney, a former software company executive and six-term New York Congressman who lost re-election in 2022. Senator Bernie Sanders, head of the Senate Labor Committee and a strong labor ally, was urging Biden to consider flight attendants union leader Sara Nelson, or former Clinton-administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
Walsh is the first member of the Biden cabinet to step down. Labor secretaries normally serve at least a full four-year presidential term, but during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole resigned two years in to become the president of the American Red Cross. And in the Donald Trump administration, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned after two and a half years in the wake of a scandal over a secret plea deal that he had arranged with sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein while Acosta was a federal prosecutor in Florida.