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Marty Walsh, President-elect Biden's nominee for labor secretary. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President-elect Biden has named Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his nominee for labor secretary. If confirmed, Walsh will be tasked with leading the country's workers through one of the toughest eras in recent memory.

The big picture: Americans are confronting workplace safety during a pandemic, wrestling with the instability of gig work, experiencing widespread unemployment and more.

What they're saying: Normally, I would say, 'Who cares who is labor secretary?'" says John Logan, a U.S. labor historian at San Francisco State University. "This time there does seem to be more substance."

Here are some of the biggest issues Walsh will have to tackle from day one:

  • Revitalize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "OSHA has been severely neglected under the Trump Department of Labor," with the number of inspectors falling every year except 2020, Logan says. Look for Walsh to build this agency back up, as it plays a huge role in curbing the spread of the virus within workplaces.
  • Address the inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. Walsh's Department of Labor will be tasked with examining how and why the pandemic recession has disproportionately hurt communities of color.
  • Issue guidance on the classification of gig workers. Walsh will have to wade into the national debate over whether gig workers are employees or independent contractors.

Go deeper

Unemployment filings explode again as pandemic slams job market

Volunteers distribute meals at a food bank in Pennsylvania last month. (Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

More than 1.4 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week — a figure that includes first-time filings for regular state unemployment and another program for non-traditional workers.

Why it matters: It’s another surge in the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits, an additional sign the labor market is facing more strain as the coronavirus continues to ravage the country.

Updated 10 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.