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CWA Backs Michigan Congressmember for Secretary of Labor

November 13, 2020

By Steve Wishnia

The Communication Workers of America are urging the Biden/Harris administration to make Michigan Rep. Andy Levin U.S. Labor Secretary.

WASHINGTON—The Communications Workers of America are urging President-elect Joseph Biden to pick Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), a former union organizer and green-energy advocate, as Secretary of Labor.

“Congressman Levin checks every box that you’ll need in a Secretary of Labor to help implement your agenda effectively,” CWA President Chris Shelton wrote in a letter to Biden Nov. 10. “He has a deep passion and vision for enhancing the lives of working people, strong credentials from the labor movement, tremendous experience implementing labor policy, an ability to hit the ground running right away, and, needless to say, a strong understanding of working with Congress.”

Levin, 60, became vice-chair of the House Education and Labor Committee during his first term in Congress, and has worked with the CWA on issues such as expanding consumers’ access to broadband Internet service. He was elected in 2018 to succeed his father, Rep. Sander Levin, in representing Detroit’s suburbs in Macomb and Oakland counties north of the Eight Mile Road city line, and won a second term this month.

Other candidates speculated about include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.); California Labor Secretary Julie Su; AFL-CIO chief economist Bill Spriggs; Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, who served as labor secretary in the Obama administration; and Seth Harris, deputy labor secretary under Obama. The nominee would succeed Trump appointee Eugene Scalia, a former attorney for a union-avoidance law firm.

Levin’s office did not respond to calls from LaborPress, but he told the Detroit Free Press in a statement that he was honored that union leaders “think it might be a good idea for me to serve in the Biden administration.”

He began his career in the 1980s as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union. After working in the Department of Labor, he became the AFL-CIO’s national assistant director of organizing in 1995. In his 11 years there, he created the Union Summer program, which brings young people into the union to learn organizing, and ran the campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

More recently, Levin has worked with the CWA on expanding access to broadband Internet service. Biden has a plan to invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure and improve service in poorer urban areas, with the work done by union labor. “What an opportunity to put CWA members to work to connect every house in this country with high-speed connectivity that has all kinds of benefits,” Levin said during a Michigan town-hall event with union members Oct. 29.

He was one of seven Michigan Congressmembers to speak out against the rule the Labor Department rushed through last month that slashed Obama-era limits on when employers can classify workers as independent contractors. He also opposed another new regulation that bars federally backed workers’ pension funds from considering “environmental, social and governance factors” in deciding where to make investments, unless they can document that they will not reduce the yield. The rule, finalized Oct. 30, says investment decisions must be “based solely on financial considerations.”

Trump’s Department of Labor, Levin said in a statement Nov. 2, was “again showing its antipathy toward working people and utter disregard for the worsening environmental crisis that necessitates a fundamental transformation of our economy.” “Sustainable” funds often perform better than others, he added.

Levin is a longtime advocate of the “Green New Deal” principles of combining environmental sustainability and good jobs. In 2009, while working for the Michigan Workforce Development Agency, he helped start the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility Alliance, a collaboration with the auto companies that trained engineers and technicians to electrify cars. He is also a lead sponsor of the EV Freedom Act, which would establish a national network of charging stations for electric vehicles. The United Automobile Workers and various environmentalist organizations have endorsed the bill, which Levin and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced in February.

November 13, 2020

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