Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is expected to depart the Biden administration soon, according to two people familiar with the matter, marking the first Cabinet secretary departure of President Joe Biden’s presidency.
Walsh has been offered a job heading the NHL’s Players’ Association, the people said. His departure isn’t expected to be announced until after Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
The departure will mark a first for what has been a remarkable stable Cabinet in Biden’s first two years in office, but comes at a point officials note is historically marked by turnover inside any administration.
Inside the West Wing, two of Biden’s closest and most powerful advisers – chief of staff Ron Klain and Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, have announced their departures. Klain’s last day is Wednesday and Biden named Jeff Zients, his former Covid-19 response chief as his replacement.
The decision by Walsh, the former Boston mayor, will leave Biden without another critical adviser and liaison to one of his most important constituencies: Unions. Walsh has played a critical behind the scenes role in addressing some of the most complex business and union disputes and crises over Biden’s first two years and was viewed inside the West Wing as a key piece of the team inside the administration.
A former top union official himself, Walsh brought a combination of political and labor bona fides to an agency Biden made clear would be elevated in importance during his time in office.
As a politician, he has been open about his recovery from alcohol addiction and championed efforts to break the stigma surrounding it.
Two years after going to detox, he became a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. While in the statehouse, he said, he decided to speak out about his recovery after hearing his mentor Kevin Fitzgerald, a former Massachusetts state lawmaker, speak openly about his own recovery.
Since becoming labor secretary, Walsh says he’s had conversations with different federal agencies about recovery-related programs modeled after his work as mayor. He was also a central figure in key negotiations between railroad companies and union leaders to avoid a strike in November.
News of his departure was first reported by the Daily Faceoff.
Walsh and Biden have a longstanding relationship. When Walsh won Boston’s mayoral race in 2013, the then-vice president called Walsh to congratulate him (but first spoke with the wrong Marty Walsh). Walsh was also a rumored potential Labor pick in 2016 had Hillary Clinton won the presidency.
This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.