Walsh was approved by a vote of 68-29.
“Working people, labor unions, and those fighting every day for their shot at the middle class are the backbone of our economy and of this country,” Walsh said when his nomination was first announced in January. “As Secretary of Labor, I’ll work just as hard for you as you do for your families and livelihoods. You have my word.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was among the Republicans who voted against him.
Walsh, 53, is a longtime friend and ally of the president. In 2018, Biden oversaw Walsh’s inauguration for a second term as mayor of Boston. Prior to becoming mayor, Walsh served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 until 2014.
A longtime labor leader, Walsh joined the Laborers’ Union Local 223 in Boston when he was 21 years old. He later became president of the union as well as head of Boston Building Trades, an umbrella group that oversaw several local unions. He held both posts until he became mayor.
Walsh’s close ties to organized labor drew scrutiny during his time as mayor. He was once linked to a federal probe alleging his associates had used illegal tactics to "strong-arm" local developers, though he was never the subject of an investigation or charged with a crime.
In 2019, two of Walsh’s top aides at Boston City Hall — tourism head Ken Brissette and intergovernmental affairs head Tim Sullivan — were found guilty on federal charges that they pressured the organizers of the Boston Calling music festival to hire union workers. Walsh was not accused of wrongdoing.
Walsh’s confirmation solidifies another key Cabinet position for Biden, who pledged ahead of the 2020 presidential election to be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen." Biden drew support from several top labor leaders, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
The Biden administration has called for several reforms to boost the power of workers, including a crackdown on labor law violations and passage of a $15 federal minimum wage. Within his first few days in office, Biden signed an executive order which aimed to enhance labor rights during the coronavirus pandemic.
Walsh has served as mayor of Boston since 2014. The city will hold a special election to fill the post with his departure.