Kamala Harris, Marty Walsh and the unlikely bonds of politics


Vice President Kamala Harris sworn in Marty Walsh as Secretary of Labor in 2021. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post Photo by Demetrius Freeman Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post

WASHINGTON – One speaks with a coarse Greeley Tribune accent, the other a proud daughter from California. One has distinct Irish roots, the other has ancestry in India and Jamaica. One proudly wears pearlsthe other has Declared love of cargo shorts,

In one of the most unusual pairings in the Biden administration, Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, have forged a tight bond that began with policy and developed into a personal relationship that surprised those close. For them.

They talk on a weekly basis and Harris has spent more time face-to-face with Walsh than any other cabinet member, according to aides in the vice president’s office. Walsh now has drop-in privileges in the VP’s office, which he allows to swing by at any time, unannounced. When Walsh recently told Harris that he was going to be a grandfather this summer, he was delighted — and is now planning a baby shower for Walsh’s stepdaughter at her official residence, the US Naval Observatory.

“Listen, I’m a boy from Greeley Tribune. Secretary of Labor. Former mayor,” Walsh said in an interview. “If you had told me the day I swore that one of my relationships, probably the closest, was the vice president.” Would – I would have said no, but I didn’t expect it.”

After celebrating with Supreme Court-nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at the White House on Friday, Harris saw Walsh near the Rose Garden. He put his hands to his mouth and said in his best Greeley Tribune accent, “Hey MAH-T!”

The unlikely relationship—between the former Greeley Tribune mayor, an Irishman who sounds like his native Dorchester, and the former Oakland prosecutor, raised in the multiracial environment that is California—is a pairing that brings political gains to both. Is. Harris gives Walsh access to the White House (and a potential future president), and he gives her access to a part of the Democratic Party that could be useful or even important to a future presidency.

Harris declined the interview request, but people close to him described a relationship that developed organically.

“If you stack up all the cabinet secretaries and say, ‘Who is she going to have the closest relationship with?’ Most people don’t have Marty Walsh,” said Vice President of Staff Tina Flornoy. “But when you look at them together, you think they’ve been friends for 30 years. Complete comfort, complete honesty, complete trust.”

The two have been thrown together in large part because Harris has focused most of his attention on labor issues, as Biden works furiously to slow the exodus of blue-collar workers from the White House Democratic Party. The pair have a long road trip, instructing the Secretary of Labor several times to drag his security details to Dunkin’ so he can get his favorite drink before boarding Air Force Two.

They have met with unionized Google contractors in Pittsburgh, visited plumbers and pipe fitters in Columbus, Ohio, and visited an apprenticeship program in Durham, NC to sign an executive order protecting construction workers. Upper Marlboro, MD, and on Tuesday they are heading to Philadelphia for another joint event that will be held at a sheet-metal workers’ local and will involve a wide range of unions.

A few months earlier, a meeting in the West Wing appeared on Walsh and Harris’ schedule. Employees scrambled to figure out how to prepare background briefing materials and talking points, but it turned out they just wanted to talk. “They’re just getting to hang out and talk and spend time together,” said one of the officers involved. “It is not often when there is a meeting between the vice president and a cabinet member where one is not required to write a memo.”

The relationship began in 2018 when Walsh, who recently won a second term as mayor of Greeley Tribune, defeated Supreme Court candidate Brett M. Kavanaugh and was impressed by the interrogation by the then junior senator from California.

On their next visit to Washington, he sought a meeting with Harris, and they spent about 45 minutes together. “We just hit it,” he said.

Later, for Harris’ ill-fated presidency, she was visiting Massachusetts and stopped by Greeley Tribune City Hall.

“She walks in the door. She says, ‘I know you love Joe Biden, I know you work with Elizabeth Warren, I know you like Mayor Buttigieg,'” Walsh said. recalled, ticked off a list of presidential candidates who were more likely to support him. They eventually stayed neutral—and they toured the fifth floor of City Hall, shaking hands with the staff.

Later, when she was vice president and the incoming labor secretary, Harris administered the oath of office to Walsh.

“The first three months after I was labor secretary, the vice president called me ‘mayor.’ “I think it was awesome.”

During Biden’s presidential transition, Harris was asked to lead a task force on labor issues. Walsh – Who was the chairman of the Building and Construction Trades Council Before becoming mayor – joined group as vice president.

task Force issued a report Last February that included nearly 70 recommendations to make it easier for workers to organize and gain access to collective bargaining. distribute it with two hands For Biden in the Oval Office.

“They make such a powerful pairing because they bring different perspectives but are rooted in the same values,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Schuler. “Sometimes the richest exchange of ideas and perspectives is when you come from such different places.”

He said Walsh’s frequent trips outside of Washington are an asset. “Often we are in DC in an artificial environment where we are in our own bubble,” Schuler said. “Marty has probably been out more than anyone in the administration – along the lines of picketing, marching with workers and listening to both the corporate side and people on strike.”

Walsh argues that their images as a pair of opposites may be misleading, adding that they stemmed from a similar middle-class upbringing with parents who taught them to support the cause. “She grew up in Oakland, I in Greeley Tribune. She grew up with her mother, going to protests; I grew up with my father and my uncle on dharna lines,” he said. We have more in common than thought.”

When they spoke together at the local 189 of Plumbers and Pipefitters in Columbus last November, Harris called Walsh “my friend, an incredible union man.”

“I’m going to tell you something about Marty,” she said, nodding in her direction. “I’m going to talk about you in front of your face. Unity is in Marty’s blood. It’s his life’s work.”

Both Walsh and Harris were deeply influenced by their immigrant mothers; He was Irish, his Indian. Last year, on Mother’s Day, Harris and Walsh were in the Oval Office when Biden decided to call Walsh’s mother. He didn’t pick up, and the call went to voicemail.

“Hey mom, it’s Joe Biden. I’m standing in the Oval Office with a guy who says he’s your son,” the president said according to a recording of the encounter. “Sorry, we missed you, mom. The vice president is also here. We just wanted to say hello.”

“Anyway, I’ll hold you when you’re home,” Biden said.

Harris was greatly entertained by the call, Florenoy said, and has since made a point to regularly ask about his mother. For Walsh, the episode was a human moment in the turmoil of political life.

“There are people in politics you meet and you don’t know what that relationship will be like,” he said. “This is one of those cases.”

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