Walsh will leave the Biden cabinet for the NHL union

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh is expected to leave the Biden administration to head the National Hockey League Players’ Association, according to two people familiar with his plans.

The hockey players union is looking for a new executive director to take over from Don Fehr. An association spokesman had no official update on the situation when he was reached on Tuesday.

A serious Boston Bruins fan, Walsh displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport in videos posted online during his 2014 to 2021 tenure as mayor of Boston.

As secretary of labor, Walsh helped broker a temporary labor deal between major freight railroads and their unions, averting the risk of a strike that could disrupt the U.S. economy ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Congress later forced a contract on the unions after workers failed to ratify the deal.

An administration official said Tuesday that Walsh would have to leave office following President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, as did a second person familiar with Walsh’s plans, who stressed the plan was not yet definitive. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss departure plans.

Walsh’s departure would make him the first of Biden’s cabinet secretaries to leave. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has his last day in the White House on Wednesday. And last week, Biden announced the imminent departure of Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council.

Incoming chief of staff Jeff Zients has spent the past few months working to prepare the administration for potential staff turnover as Biden hits the two-year mark. After two years of uncharacteristic stability in the staff ranks, White House officials have cabled that more change is likely in the coming months as depleted staffers seek new opportunities and are replaced by those with fresh energy — and as Biden prepares for the expected launch of his re-election campaign in the coming months.

Biden noted in a January address to mayors that Walsh was making sure government construction projects paid a prevailing wage and that apprenticeship programs equip blue-collar workers with the necessary skills.

Walsh, 55, entered politics after rising through the ranks of a construction union. At the age of 21, he joined the workers’ Local 223 and eventually became its president. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1997 and remained in the legislature until he was elected mayor. He was also a former head of the Boston Building Trades union.

The NHLPA began its search for a successor to Fehr in late August, appointing a search committee of seven players and hiring a firm to assist it. Fehr, best known for his long career leading the Major League Baseball Players Association, began working for the hockey union in December 2010 and has been its executive director since 2013, overseeing two collective bargaining negotiations.

Walsh calculates taking over amid growing NHL revenues with three years remaining until the next round of CBA talks.

“I met Marty a couple of times when he was mayor of Boston, but beyond that there’s nothing to add,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “I will not comment on who may or may not be the next executive director. That would be inappropriate, and if I go far enough, I could be violating federal labor laws. The fact of the matter is that we are very respectful of what players do. They’ll run the process for a new executive director as they see fit, and we’ll work with whoever it is.”


AP writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

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