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Marty Walsh: good for the US unions?

TONY BURKE looks optimistically across the Atlantic to where a long-standing union man has been slated to become the next Labour Secretary

US UNIONS have welcomed President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to appoint Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as US Labour Secretary.

Before becoming the mayor of Boston, Walsh was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and previously the head of the Boston Metropolitan District Building and Construction Trades Council, covering over 20 union locals in the construction industry.

Walsh joined the Labourers Union Local 223 at the age of 21 and served as its president.

Biden was expected to choose a candidate who had wide support among unions given his support for collective bargaining and the right to organise. Walsh will play a key role in implementing Biden’s proposed pro-worker agenda.

He was chosen from a strong field of candidates including California Labour Secretary Julie Su and Andy Levin, a representative from Michigan. Bernie Saunders had also expressed an interest in running for the post.

United Steelworkers international president Tom Conway said that Walsh would make “a real difference” as US labour secretary. 

Richard Trumka, the president of the US union umbrella body the AFL-CIO who backed Walsh, said: “As a long-time union member, Marty Walsh knows that collective bargaining is essential to building back better by combating inequality, beating Covid-19 and expanding opportunities for immigrants, women and people of colour. 

“He will have the ear of the White House, the Cabinet and Congress as we work to increase union density and create a stronger, fairer America.” 

Biden has already appointed 28 union and pro-worker members to his transition teams.

But it won’t be plain sailing. The National Labour Relations Board, which is supposed to enforce the law on the right to form a union, to take industrial action and for workers to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions through collective bargaining currently has a Trump-appointed Republican majority. 

With no representatives who have experience representing of workers or unions the NLRB has stripped workers of their protections under the law, restricted their ability to organise, slowed down the process of ballots by workers to secure union recognition, giving employers more time to campaign against unions, repealed rules holding employers accountable for their actions and undermined workers’ bargaining rights. 

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite.

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