Bloomberg Law
Feb. 2, 2023, 5:30 PM

DOL Priorities Expected to Move Ahead Despite Rumored Walsh Exit

Rebecca Rainey
Rebecca Rainey
Senior Reporter

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s rumored imminent departure likely won’t lead to major delays of the Biden administration’s big labor items while a permanent chief is found.

Walsh has been approached by the NHL Players Association about filling the vacancy atop its executive board, TSN first reported Wednesday, although a decision hasn’t been made.

If the former Boston mayor were to exit the administration after leading the Labor Department for nearly two years, Deputy Secretary Julie Su would automatically become acting head of the agency under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

While there could be some minor staffing transitions, Su has been working within the Office of the Secretary since her confirmation in July 2021, and is likely familiar with the secretary’s team.

“If there’s a continuity, it’s sort of less unsettling, less confusing, because everybody knows the person who’s there, they’ve been working with the deputy,” explained Pat Pizzella, a former deputy secretary of labor who led the agency as acting secretary during the Trump administration as it transitioned between former DOL heads Alexander Acosta and Eugene Scalia.

The transition of leadership over to Su would mean that the agency’s jam-packed regulatory agenda and enforcement work would likely chug forward as planned. But Su, a former California labor secretary known to be a staunch enforcer of workers’ rights, could also steer the agency in another direction—a concern raised by opponents of her nomination to the number two spot at the DOL.

“As far as transitioning because it’s within one administration, obviously the President’s priorities remain intact,” Pizzella said. “But a new secretary, regardless of who they are, may have some personal issues or topics that they may want to address, more so than the predecessor.”

“The Search Committee has been actively interviewing potential candidates and remains engaged in the process of selecting a new NHLPA Executive Director,” Jonathan Weatherdon, a spokesman for National Hockey League Players’ Association said in an emailed statement Wednesday evening. “While the process is getting closer to completion, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

The DOL didn’t respond to a request for comment on Walsh’s exit.

Whether Walsh would leave immediately if granted a job outside the administration is also still an open question, given the high-stakes labor negotiations at Los Angeles ports and his agency’s near completion of a highly anticipated rule on independent contractor status. The DOL is also expected to release a proposal to expand overtime protections to more workers by May, according to its regulatory agenda.

During his tenure, Walsh has taken on a more public-facing rather than policy-shaping role at the DOL. In 2022 alone, Walsh traveled to 39 states to meet with workers and talk about the Biden administration’s agenda, according to the agency.

There have also been recent departures within Walsh’s top staff at the DOL. Two members of Walsh’s public affairs team departed late last year, and in July, Daniel Koh, Walsh’s chief of staff who followed him from the Boston mayor’s office, left for a position in the White House.

Walsh still has active events on his schedule as Labor Secretary, despite the rumors he’s considering leaving the Frances Perkins Building. He’s slated to appear at an event on Feb. 6 at the DOL’s Washington, D.C., headquarters to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Rainey in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Genevieve Douglas at