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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.

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.