I have been praising the Opinion Letters which have, of late, been issuing from the US Department of Labor because, candidly, they are displaying a business friendly attitude, or should I say, a pragmatic approach to the thorny issues employers face in the maze of USDOL regulations. Well, this may all change as President Biden has selected Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as the Secretary of Labor. He is clearly a friend of labor, as he was the head of the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council.
Union leaders were quick to praise the pick. Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, stated that “it will take an unprecedented effort from the president-elect and the Labor Department to recover from the failed policies of the past four years, which have harmed working people and our families. But with Joe Biden and Marty Walsh, we are setting our sights high.” Randi Weingarten, who leads the American Federation of Teachers asserted that Mr. Walsh would be “a crucial addition” to the Biden administration. She lauded the fact that “he’s walked picket lines and knows workers’ struggles and power when they come together…”
The new Secretary will face an agency that has issued a number of pro-employer rulings and Opinion Letters. These include a regulation just issued as final which addresses the thorny issue of independent contractors. Also, as I have written about often, a number of business friendly Opinion Letters have issued as well, which this Secretary may look to rescind.
Employer and business proponents criticized the selection. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who sits on the Education and Labor Committee, stated that the pick of Walsh “raises significant concerns” that the new administration will move vigorously on a $15 minimum wage and other supposedly anti-employer policies. Another commentator observed that, in his view, Walsh is “moderate only in comparison to the other radical individuals reportedly considered for the Cabinet position.”
I hope that the USDOL continues to issue Opinion Letters which are very helpful and instructive in guiding employers towards compliance. My fear is that the agency will either stop that procedure (as was done by the Obama Administration) or that their tone and conclusions will be less than business friendly. Other changes like this are, not may, coming down the pike, and all we can do is wait to see what they are.
With bated breath…