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At Senate Hearing, Walsh Pledges To Support Workers And The Economy04:52
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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination to be labor secretary on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AP)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination to be labor secretary on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AP)

At his Senate confirmation hearing to become Secretary of Labor, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh pledged he would support polices that would protect and expand worker rights and the American economy.

Speaking before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Thursday, Walsh said advancing workers is a key to advancing the U.S. economy.

"If confirmed, you and the American people are going to get 100% out of me each and every day," Walsh told the committee. "And the American people are made of workers, of businesses, of industry."

Democrats on the committee welcomed Walsh — and the idea of a former labor leader heading the Department.

"After four years of a Trump Labor Department that did its best to undermine workers, Marty will be a secretary of Labor who actually supports Labor," said Senator Elizabeth Warren, who introduced the mayor to the committee.

"He's a good man," she said.

Republicans were cordial but challenged Walsh on proposals to empower unions, weaken right-to-work laws and pass a $15 minimum wage, all of which are policies that President Biden supports, but which they say would kill jobs.

"If you want $15 an hour [minimum wage] in Boston, knock your socks off," said Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas. "But in [my state] that would be a pretty big job-killing wage."

Democrats and at least one key Republican on the committee predicted that Walsh will be confirmed. If and when he is, Walsh would spearhead Biden's pro-labor agenda, including the response to the pandemic and climate change, while unwinding many of the Trump administration's labor policies. Economist Barry Bluestone, professor emeritus at Northeastern University, said Walsh's record as mayor Boston should help him run the Department of Labor.

"He did such a fine job communicating what the city needs that he got praise not only from organized labor, but he got praise from business leaders as well," Bluestone said.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the Committee chairwoman, said she would schedule a vote on the committee's recommendation on Walsh "as soon as possible," which would forward his nomination for consideration by the full Senate.

This segment aired on February 4, 2021.

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Anthony Brooks Twitter Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.

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