The vote was 68 to 29.
Walsh first joined the Laborers’ Union Local 223 at age 21. By 2011, he had risen to lead the Boston Trades Council, a group that represents ironworker and electrician unions, among others. He’s served as mayor since 2014.
At his confirmation hearing, Walsh spoke of pivotal moments in his life — from having cancer as a child, to following in the footsteps of his father’s union job and recovering from addiction — that have informed how he views the work of the Department of Labor.
His nomination could expose some fault lines in the labor movement, particularly on questions of climate policy and diversity, that were largely set aside during Biden’s campaign to defeat Trump.
Walsh outlasted California Labor Secretary Julie Su, who was believed to be among the finalists, and Michigan Rep. Andy Levin, who had support from major unions like the Communications Workers of America and United Auto Workers. Su would have been among the highest ranking Asian American officials in the administration if she were selected.
But Walsh’s confirmation was a victory for AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who rallied his federation of 56 unions to back the Boston mayor soon after Biden won the election in November.
“It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this moment,” Trumka said. “For four years, working families have lived with a Labor Department devoted to serving a handful of elite interests. Now, the power to enforce safety and equity in our workplaces has been handed from a ruthless corporate lawyer to a proud union brother.”
CNN’s Gregory Krieg, Dan Merica and Sara Ashley O’Brien contributed to this report.