Murray Urges Quick Confirmation for Labor Nominee Walsh to Protect Workers During the Pandemic, Build Back a Strong, Inclusive Economy
During confirmation hearing, Senator Murray highlighted the importance of confirming Mayor Walsh and protecting and supporting workers and retirees in order to recover from the current health and economic crises and build back an economy that works for everyone
Senator Murray: Workers “need a Secretary of Labor like Mayor Walsh who will act quickly to keep workers safe, defend and expand workers’ rights, and be a partner in helping our economy come back stronger and fairer for all workers.”
***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL REMARKS HERE***
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, during the hearing to consider the nomination of Mayor Marty Walsh to serve as Secretary of Labor, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, stressed that immediately confirming Mayor Marty Walsh is critical to our nation’s ability to respond to and recover from COVID-19, and to building back an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.
After four years of relentless attacks on workers’ rights under the Trump Administration, Senator Murray pointed to Mayor Walsh’s record of fighting for all workers—including women, workers of color, workers with disabilities and more—as evidence that he is the leader this country needs to take the bold steps necessary to protect and support workers during this pandemic and expand worker’s rights going forward.
“Workers—who are the backbone of our economy—are being pushed to the brink,” said Senator Murray. “They need us to acknowledge this crisis is far from over, and pass additional relief as soon as possible. And they need a Secretary of Labor like Mayor Walsh who will act quickly to keep workers safe, defend and expand workers’ rights, and be a partner in helping our economy come back stronger and fairer for all workers.”
In her remarks, Senator Murray noted that we are in the midst of the most dire economic and jobs crisis in modern American history, with millions of workers struggling to get by without a livable wage, strong workplace safety standards, pay equity protections, guaranteed paid sick days or a national paid family and medical leave policy, or access to affordable child care—and the crisis is even worse for women, workers of color, and workers with disabilities. Senator Murray also highlighted that having a partner at the Department of Labor who is focused on workers, not the biggest corporations, will be critical to enacting policies that she has long advocated for—policies like paid leave, strengthening collective bargaining rights, universal child care, raising the minimum wage, ending subminimum wage, paycheck fairness, and her BE HEARD Act to address workplace harassment and assault.
“This pandemic has laid bare the painful fact that while our economy might work for the biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals it doesn’t work for families, and it’s working against women, people of color, people with disabilities, and so many others,” continued Senator Murray.
“It has never been more important to have a Department of Labor that fights for workers. But unfortunately, we didn’t have that last year—we had the Trump Administration. Under former President Trump, the Department of Labor attacked workers’ rights at every turn, and protected the wealthiest corporations at the expense of working families.”
During the hearing, Senator Murray reiterated her strong support for Mayor Walsh’s nomination and his life-long commitment to improving workers’ lives—whether it be as a local labor leader, or as Mayor of Boston fighting to get essential workers support during this pandemic. She also noted that his experience working across coalitions of labor and business groups has prepared him to hit the ground running at the Department of Labor and act immediately to defend workers and protect them during this pandemic.
“Mayor Walsh would bring an important perspective to the Department as the first union leader to head it in decades,” said Senator Murray. “And just as importantly, he would bring a long track record as a collaborative leader who has worked across coalitions—with labor groups and the business community—as a state representative, and as Mayor of Boston to rebuild the middle class and create a more inclusive, resilient economy for all workers.”
Senator Murray also spoke about the urgency of protecting retirees and addressing the multiemployer pension crisis before it throws millions of workers and retirees into financial jeopardy by causing the benefits they earned to be sharply cut, through no fault of their own. During questions, she asked Mayor Walsh to commit to work with her to address this problem as Secretary of Labor.
Additionally, Senator Murray continued to stress the importance of getting workers across the country additional relief, by passing President Biden’s COVID relief proposal. She urged her colleagues to recognize the magnitude of the economic crisis we are in—with thousands of jobs lost and millions of workers unemployed—and support relief that meets the moment.
Senator Murray’s full remarks are below.
“Mayor Walsh thank you for joining us today—and I’m pleased to welcome your partner Lorrie as well.
“While we haven’t had the chance to meet in person yet, I look forward to meeting you soon. I know we’ll be working together a lot, both virtually for the time being, and in person hopefully soon.
“President Biden announced his intent to nominate Mayor Walsh on January 7th. His formal nomination arrived on January 20th. The Committee received Mayor Walsh’s Office of Government Ethics paperwork—including his public financial disclosures and ethics agreement—on January 22nd, and his Committee paperwork on January 25th.
“Mayor Walsh, I look forward to hearing about how you and the Biden Administration will work with us to fight for workers across the country and I hope we’ll be able to confirm you quickly—because we don’t have a minute to delay.
“We lost 140,000 jobs in the last month: all of the net job loss was among women, and it was disproportionately among women of color.
“Unemployment is twice as high as it was a year ago—and as usual it is unfortunately even higher among women, people with disabilities and people of color.
“And I’ve heard from so many families back in Washington state who are hurting.
“This pandemic has laid bare the painful fact that while our economy might work for the biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals it doesn’t work for families, and it’s working against women, people of color, people with disabilities, and so many others.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, our health and home care workers, grocery store clerks, delivery people, fast food workers, farm workers, bus drivers, and so many others have kept this country going—showing more clearly than ever before that workers are the backbone of our economy.
“Democrats and Republicans alike have joined together in rightly calling our essential workers ‘heroes.’
“But despite their tireless work and the risk of COVID exposure too many of these workers are paid wages so low, they can’t afford even their most basic needs.
“One in nine workers in our country makes poverty level wages. And the current federal minimum wage has left millions of working people desperately in need of a raise. A quarter of Latino workers, around a third of Black workers sixty percent of women—over 32 million people in all are currently paid as little as $7.25 an hour, $2.13 an hour for tipped workers or just pennies on the dollar for some workers with disabilities.
“And the pandemic hasn’t only made it harder for workers to make ends meet it is making their wages even more deeply unfair.
“Women are paid only 82 cents for every dollar paid to men—and that drops to 63 cents for Black, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, 60 cents for Native American women, and only 55 cents for Latina women.
“And a new report projects the wage gap will likely widen by five percent because of this pandemic.
“And these problems are exacerbated by our insufficient pay equity protections, our lack of guaranteed paid sick days and a national paid family and medical leave policy, and our rapidly worsening child care crisis.
“Amid all the pressures of this pandemic, one in four women say they are considering downshifting their careers, or leaving the workforce.
“And for so many workers, the conditions aren’t just unfair—they are also unsafe.
“The largest meatpacking plant in my home state of Washington had a COVID-19 outbreak last year that infected hundreds of people and we’ve seen the same thing in other workplaces across the country.
“Thousands of workers have died from COVID-19, including over 100 grocery store workers, more than 275 meatpacking plant workers, and nearly 3,000 health care workers.
“It has never been more important to have a Department of Labor that fights for workers. But unfortunately, we didn’t have that last year—we had the Trump Administration.
“Under former President Trump, the Department of Labor attacked workers’ rights at every turn, and protected the wealthiest corporations at the expense of working families.
“They denied millions of workers overtime pay, made it easier for employers to steal workers’ tips, weakened workplace discrimination enforcement and protections for LGBTQIA+ workers, and more.
“Despite the urgency of this pandemic, the Trump Administration refused to have OSHA issue an Emergency Temporary Standard protecting workers from COVID-19, a tragic failure I’m glad President Biden is already working toward correcting.
“The Trump Administration even tried to restrict the bipartisan emergency paid leave policy Congress passed to help fight the pandemic.
“After four years of the Trump Administration’s attacks on working families, and a pandemic that continues to push them to the brink, we desperately need a Secretary of Labor like Mayor Walsh, who will fight for workers—not against them.
“Mayor Walsh would bring an important perspective to the Department as the first union leader to head it in decades.
“And just as importantly, he would bring a long track record as a collaborative leader who has worked across coalitions—with labor groups and the business community—as a state representative, and as mayor of Boston to rebuild the middle class and create a more inclusive, resilient economy for all workers.
“Under his leadership, 135,000 new jobs have been created in the city.
“And he has fought for a $15 minimum wage and paid leave—policies that will help ensure women, workers of color, and workers with disabilities can succeed in the workforce and get the pay they deserve.
“During this pandemic, Mayor Walsh has also continued to show a deep commitment to the frontline workers who have kept this country running, by providing funding for emergency child care, and other resources essential workers need to weather this pandemic.
“It’s clear Mayor Walsh has the right experience, leadership, and priorities to protect workers during this critical moment. And I look forward to working with him, President Biden, and Vice President Harris, to see our country through this pandemic, and rebuild an economy that is stronger and fairer for all workers.
“One that promises, regardless of age, race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability—every worker can earn a livable wage, which is why we need to pass the Raise the Wage Act and establish a national minimum wage of $15 dollars an hour—without exceptions or carve outs, pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and promise that every woman will receive equal pay for equal work and have a Department of Labor that protects workers’ paychecks against wage theft.
“We need leaders who ensure every worker is safe from pandemics. We need laws like my Be HEARD Act to make sure workers are protected against discrimination and harassment and we need to hold every employer accountable for ensuring safe working conditions.
“Building an economy for working families also means ensuring every person has paid sick days and leave so they can put the health and wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones first and every parent has access to quality affordable child care— two other critical pieces of President Biden’s COVID plan.
“It means ensuring every person has access to a retirement plan and the resources they need to plan for the future and protecting those plans against threats like unscrupulous financial advisors or the multiemployer pension crisis that could strip millions of people of the benefits they have earned.
“And last but not least, it means protecting and strengthening every workers’ right to join a union and collectively bargain for safer working conditions, better pay, a secure retirement, and so much more.
“Which is why I am proud to be re-introducing the PRO Act later today with Majority Leader Schumer and Congressman Scott.
“Even before this pandemic—and even before President Trump’s four year crusade against workers—we had a long road ahead to build a truly fair, inclusive economy that works for working families.
“But now, not only is the road longer, but the clock is ticking. Workers—who are the backbone of our economy—are being pushed to the brink.
“They need us to acknowledge this crisis is far from over, and pass additional relief as soon as possible.
“And they need a Secretary of Labor like Mayor Walsh who will act quickly to keep workers safe, defend and expand workers’ rights, and be a partner in helping our economy come back stronger and fairer for all workers
“I hope all of my colleagues agree we need a Secretary of Labor we can trust to stand up for workers—not huge corporations—at this critical time, and will prove it by working with me to get Mayor Walsh confirmed without delay.
“Finally, I now ask for unanimous consent to enter into the record 25 letters of support for Mayor Walsh’s nomination for Labor Secretary signed by over 29 individuals and groups representing labor and trade unions, financial and medical institutions, and a bipartisan group of mayors across the country.
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