It has recently cited six Amazon warehouses for creating work environments that have high risk for musculoskeletal injuries among workers. Amazon has said the accusations don’t reflect the steps it takes to ensure worker safety.
How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.
Ann Rosenthal, a longtime Labor Department lawyer who was at the department during the first year of the Biden administration, said Mr. Walsh was among the most effective of the 13 secretaries she served because of his credibility with unions and other worker advocates, his close relationship with Mr. Biden, and his political instincts and pragmatism. “He really checked all the boxes,” Ms. Rosenthal said.
Mr. Walsh’s tenure at the department was not without controversy. Most prominent was the deal he helped broker in September between major freight rail carriers and a dozen unions representing more than 100,000 rail workers. The deal helped to avert a potentially crippling strike before the midterm elections and granted improvements in health benefits and wage increases of nearly 25 percent over five years.
But the deal lacked paid sick days, and some workers complained that it did little to ease the grueling, unpredictable schedules that had put stress on their personal lives and health. Although members of four rail unions voted down the deal, the administration urged Congress to mandate the deal in November, and the president signed legislation enacting it. (Last week, one of the carriers, CSX, announced an agreement with unions that would provide four paid sick days a year for about 5,000 workers; a White House spokeswoman said Mr. Walsh had continued to push the rail carriers to offer paid sick leave.)
Critics also complained that OSHA under Mr. Walsh didn’t go far enough in protecting workers from Covid-19. They said the agency should have devised regulations that applied to a variety of high-risk industries, such as meat processing, grocery and retail, not just health care. (The department said it had the power to ensure worker safety in these industries through other means, such as a so-called general duty clause.)
Other rules, like the independent contractor rule and the one governing construction-worker wages, were proposed but not finalized during the first two years of the Biden administration — a delay that has worried some supporters.
And Mr. Walsh and his administration colleagues failed in their efforts to win legislation that would have made it easier for workers to unionize, such as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, which would have blocked employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union meetings and made it possible to impose penalties on employers that violated labor law. The House passed the measure, but it stalled in the Senate.