Bloomberg Law
Nov. 10, 2020, 8:49 PMUpdated: Nov. 10, 2020, 10:30 PM

Biden’s Labor Transition Team Stacked with Obama Veterans (1)

Ben Penn
Ben Penn

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is appointing a who’s who of senior Obama-era U.S. Labor Department officials to help it prepare for the transfer of power at labor-focused agencies.

The list includes Obama deputy labor secretaries Chris Lu and Seth Harris along with several other former DOL officials: Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith; Deputy Solicitor Deborah Greenfield; Chief of Staff Seema Nanda; Deputy Chief of Staff Raj Nayak; and Wage and Hour Division senior policy adviser Tanya Goldman.

Biden, whose blue-collar roots and support for unions are central to his political brand, is widely expected among policy insiders to shift federal labor-focused agencies away from the business-friendly philosophy that President Donald Trump made a hallmark of his administration.

The backgrounds of other policy experts named to Biden’s “agency review team” also offer signals about what the Biden labor transition’s focal points may be. They include Doug Parker, chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which has taken a more aggressive approach to workplace-safety enforcement than the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration under Trump, and Michele Evermore, who specializes in unemployment insurance at the National Employment Law Project.

Some members of the team are expected to be appointed to DOL and other executive branch agency posts after Inauguration Day, as has been the custom during previous presidential transitions.

Former Labor Department career officials Robin Runge, who worked at WHD, and Ann Rosenthal, from the DOL Solicitor’s Office, also are on board.

Jenny Yang, a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair who was nominated by the Obama White House, will be supporting the transition.

At the National Labor Relations Board, the Biden transition has called upon Jennifer Abruzzo, a former deputy and acting general counsel at the NLRB who’s now an attorney at the Communications Workers of America.

A handful of other current and former union officials made Biden’s list. They include Lynn Rhinehart, a retired general counsel at the AFL-CIO; Jessica Chu, chief of staff at the Amalgamated Transit Union; and Shaun O’Brien, an assistant director at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The review team also has a link to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the former Democratic presidential contender who reportedly is interested in serving as Biden’s labor secretary. Josh Orton, a senior adviser to the Vermont senator, is supporting Biden’s labor transition.

Biden’s Rebrand

The Biden transition on Tuesday released agency review teams geared toward agencies across the federal government, changing the name of what other transitions have called “landing teams.”

A traditional component of the transfer of power, the landing teams are tasked with developing new policies and regulations, vetting potential personnel, and gathering materials from the current administration to facilitate a smooth handoff.

The process is currently held up as Trump continues to contest the election results and his General Services Administration has yet to sign off on the paperwork necessary to allow agency review teams to report to federal agencies, meet with civil servants, and review documents.

Biden’s Labor Department and related agencies will be under pressure from the political left to quickly advance an agenda featuring tougher enforcement of safety and wage standards in response to the pandemic. In addition, organized labor is eager for Biden to bolster union organizing rights by overturning the Trump NLRB’s litany of pro-employer decisions and policies.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at; Andrew Harris at