Walsh touts American Rescue Plan in first appearance as Labor secretary

Walsh touts American Rescue Plan in first appearance as Labor secretary
© Alex Gangitano

Labor Secretary Marty WalshMarty Walsh minimum wage for federal contractors will take effect on Jan. 30 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Pelosi takes victory lap after breaking months-long standoff The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay MORE made his first public appearance on Thursday to promote President BidenJoe BidenPfizer CEO says vaccine data for those under 5 could be available by end of year Omicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles MORE's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package during a visit to a preschool and childcare center in Washington, D.C.

Walsh, who was sworn in Tuesday, toured Bright Start Early Care & Preschool in northwest D.C., a Black-owned, woman-owned business.

“As people go back to work, women are disproportionally impacted by the COVID crisis and having good childcare, this is great childcare, that’s one of the reasons we came here,” he said after walking around the facility and meeting employees, children and parents. 

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Walsh said that the owner, Marcia St. Hilaire Finn, is excited about what the American Rescue Plan has done for her small business.

“She told me she has 55 kids now in the program. With the rescue plan, is able to expand to 75, maybe more,” Walsh said. 

The secretary, who resigned as mayor of Boston on Monday after his Senate confirmation, said he’s still learning the job when asked about his early priorities at the Department of Labor.

“We have lots of work to do. We have to do some work in [unemployment insurance], we have to do some work in [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration]. We have to do some work in pensions. We have to do some work in a lot of different places. So, you know, I think right now feeding off, if you will, of the American Rescue Plan’s so important. There’s so much in that,” he said. 

He quipped that that visits like Thursday's are familiar to him.

“Transitioning from my old job to the new job, this is what I’m used to,” he said.

On his second full day, Walsh said he has been meeting career staff. He indicated he has plans to hire for the agency following the Trump administration.

“DOL has been really — maybe decimated is too strong of a word. But, four years ago there was 17,000 plus employees working there. Today you’re at 14,500,” he said. 

“So, you might say it’s good, downsizing government. It’s not good because the people that work there are actually serving the American people and having fewer people serving the American people means the American people are not being served,” he added.

Labor unions have been eager to have a Labor secretary to put in place an emergency temporary standard that imposes new workplace rules for shorter-term challenges like the coronavirus. 

President Biden issued an executive order for Occupational Safety and Health Administration to consider an emergency temporary standard by March 15, a deadline the agency failed to meet.

Walsh said imposing that standard is “certainly” an early priority, but he did not give time frame for its implementation. 

“The health and safety of people, of workers, is our priority and we’re viewing things now and hopefully over the course of the next—whatever it is— we’ll be able to do that. I know that I’ve had a couple of briefings with the work that’s been done on it. It’s not a simple standard, if you will,” he said.

“Again, but the priority of the Department of Labor and the priority of the president is making sure that the workers’ health and safety is the top priority,” the secretary said.