On January 7, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden announced Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his nominee for Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, Mayor Walsh would represent a stark contrast to incumbent Labor Secretary, longtime management attorney Eugene Scalia. Walsh served as the president of Laborers’ Union Local 223 prior to being elected Mayor. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka publicly endorsed Walsh for the position of Labor Secretary and praised the selection, underscoring Walsh’s background in organized labor.

As Secretary of Labor, Walsh will presumably be tasked with helping to implement a number of Biden administration policy changes, including with respect to wages, pay equity, paid leave, and workplace safety. Among his first duties will be aiding the federal government’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A look into Walsh’s tenure as Mayor of Boston may provide some insight into what employers can expect from him as Labor Secretary.

1. Boston’s COVID-19 Response

Boston, one of many cities hit hard by COVID-19, has consistently been more conservative than Massachusetts as a whole in its reopening plans. Over the course of the pandemic, Boston has typically been slower to increase office capacity limits and to permit reopening of certain businesses like fitness centers and dining establishments. Boston has also introduced free, asymptotic COVID-19 testing in its efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

2. Ties to Organized Labor

Walsh’s background in union leadership is certain to influence his priorities as Labor Secretary. Following President-elect Biden’s announcement, Walsh tweeted, “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. As Secretary of Labor, I’ll work just as hard for you as you do for your families and livelihoods.”

3. $15 Minimum Wage and Paid Family and Medical Leave

Massachusetts recently began offering paid family and medical leave benefits, and is on its way to mandating a $15 minimum wage (which it will do on January 1, 2023, with gradual increases each year until then). Mayor Walsh was a strong supporter of both efforts.

We expect a flurry of activity from the Biden administration’s Labor Department in the months to come. Subscribe to Proskauer’s Law and the Workplace and Labor Relations Update blogs to stay current on the latest developments impacting your business.

Photo of Allan Bloom Allan Bloom

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages…

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages, employment discrimination, breach of contract and wrongful discharge, both at the trial and appellate court levels as well as in arbitration. He has secured complete defense verdicts for clients in front of juries, as well as injunctions to protect clients’ confidential information and assets.

As the leader of Proskauer’s Wage and Hour Practice Group, Allan has been a strategic partner to a number of Fortune 500 companies to help them avoid, minimize and manage exposure to wage and hour-related risk. Allan’s views on wage and hour issues have been featured in The New York TimesReutersBloomberg and Fortune, among other leading publications. His class-action defense work for clients has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages.

Allan is regularly called on to advise boards of directors and senior leadership on highly sensitive matters such as executive transitions, internal investigations and strategic workforce planning. He also has particular expertise in the financial services industry, where he has litigated and arbitrated cases, including at FINRA and its predecessors, for more than 20 years.

Photo of Thomas B. Fiascone Thomas B. Fiascone

Thomas Fiascone is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Tom has experience practicing in federal and state courts, and before administrative agencies such as the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As part of his employment…

Thomas Fiascone is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Tom has experience practicing in federal and state courts, and before administrative agencies such as the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As part of his employment litigation practice, Tom has assisted in single-plaintiff lawsuits and class and collective actions. Tom also has experience practicing traditional labor law, assisting with collective bargaining negotiations, arbitration proceedings, and responding to unfair labor practice charges.

Tom has represented clients across many different industries, including representing financial institutions, sports entities, healthcare institutions, utility providers, public transportation services, and news and media organizations.

Tom also maintains a pro bono practice, advising local non-profits and charitable organizations on day-to-day labor and employment issues.

Tom earned his J.D. from Boston College Law School, where he was a senior editor and staff writer on the Boston College Law Review. During law school, Tom served as a judicial intern in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.