Secretary Marty Walsh to Leave Labor for NHL Players’ Association, Reports Say

Marty Walsh, U.S. secretary of labor
Marty Walsh, U.S. secretary of labor, speaks during the 2022 SelectUSA Investment Summit in National Harbor, Md. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg News)

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Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh is leaving the Biden administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

He has been offered the job as executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, which represents professional hockey players in Canada and the U.S. Walsh is the first member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet to step down.

The news was first reported by Daily Faceoff.

His exit will cost Biden not only a major ally to organized labor, but one of his top campaigners. In 2022 alone, Walsh traveled to 39 states to meet with workers and talk about the Biden administration’s agenda.

The departure also leaves the agency without a permanent confirmed chief amid a contentious contract fight at West Coast ports that threatens to clog U.S. supply chains.

The agency’s day-to-day policy work is expected to continue uninterrupted as Walsh vacates his office at the Frances Perkins Building. Deputy Secretary Julie Su is expected to become acting head of the agency, as set out under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and is likely already familiar with most of the staff within the Office of the Secretary.

It’s unclear who would be an obvious replacement for Walsh.

Biden could face pushback if Su were to lead DOL for too long, as many business lobbyists have raised concern that she could take the department in a more liberal direction based off of her work as California labor secretary.

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During his nearly two-year tenure as head of the Labor Department, Walsh drew both scrutiny and praise for his outspoken support of labor unions, notably joining striking Kellogg’s workers on the picket line in Pennsylvania in 2021. Walsh was also a key player in negotiations between unions and freight companies that sought to avoid a rail strike that would have disrupted the national supply chain.

This isn’t Walsh’s first foray into sports politics. Last year he offered to help end the lockout between Major League Baseball and its players’ union.

Known for the ability to bring both labor and management to the table in his previous role as mayor of Boston, Walsh continued that approach in his leadership at the DOL, often drawing plaudits from management-side groups for his openness.

Walsh was confirmed as the head of the DOL in March 2021, and led the agency as it attempted to require COVID-19 vaccines at workplaces and update rules on whether workers should be considered independent contractors or employees under federal wage law.

Walsh also oversaw the creation of the office of unemployment insurance modernization at the DOL, which sought to address the failing technology that led to millions of dollars lost to fraud and massive delays during the pandemic.

The former head of the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council also co-led a White House task force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which outlined steps the federal government could take to encourage collective bargaining within the federal workforce and in federal contracts.

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