News of Walsh’s departure was first reported by The Daily Faceoff. It was not immediately clear what his exit day would be, and neither the White House nor the Labor Department immediately returned requests for comment.
Prior to his departure, Walsh played a high-profile role in several of the administration’s interactions with organized labor. He brokered an eleventh-hour compromise between freight rail carriers and unions in September and visited the West Coast as port workers renegotiated their contract with employers. But it’s a mixed track record: Congress eventually had to weigh in on the railroad dispute, and West Coast port talks remain ongoing.
With much of Biden’s pro-union reform concentrated in the White House, Walsh also is set to leave with several pivotal regulations still in the works at the Labor Department, including a proposed rule — initially expected months ago — that would expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay and a final rule redefining which workers qualify as independent contractors. The latter carries significant ramifications for gig work companies like Lyft and Uber, whose profit models are dependent on how they qualify their workforce.
With Republicans taking over control of the House, Walsh would have faced significant congressional oversight from newly installed House Education and Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx. The North Carolina Republican, who received a rare waiver to helm the committee again despite conference term limits, said in an interview last month that she’s centering her agenda on “trying to monitor what the Department [of Labor] is doing” and “calling the department’s hand.” She cited Walsh’s visit to Kellogg picket lines in October, among other things: “We’re watching Walsh not remain an objective observer of what’s happening, going and getting on the picket lines.”
House Republicans are planning to press DOL’s solicitor general on whether Walsh followed proper ethics protocols while pursuing the NHLPA job.
Walsh, a personal friend of Biden’s, beat out several candidates for the Labor job in 2021, including Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), former Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris, California Labor Secretary Julie Su and AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs. He enjoyed more bipartisan support than many other Biden nominees, leaning on his track record as Boston mayor to win over corporate America and even some congressional Republicans, who saw him as the friendliest option.
The former Boston mayor left toward the end of his second term to join the Biden administration but never moved to Washington, D.C., instead footing the bill to commute between his home in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood and his job.
By taking the players’ association gig, Walsh is now in line for a massive pay bump. Walsh makes a little over $200,000 as labor secretary. The current NHLPA executive director reportedly makes about $3 million.
Walsh had been regularly talked about as a future candidate for office in Massachusetts. But he passed on running for the state’s open governor’s seat last year, unwilling to get involved in a primary against Democrats’ heir apparent, now-Gov. Maura Healey. In addition, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have both pledged to seek reelection to their Senate seats in 2024 and 2026, respectively.