Labor Secretary Marty Walsh posed for a photo-op with truckers in Pennsylvania Tuesday to promote his department's efforts to "strengthen our workforce." But the livelihood of truckers nationwide could be disrupted if the Senate on Wednesday approves Walsh's pick for a vacant department post, according to more than a dozen trucker associations.
President Joe Biden nominated David Weil to serve as administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, a position he held during the Obama administration, where he pushed for regulations that would have made it more difficult for truckers to be independent contractors. Although the Trump administration scrapped Weil's proposed regulations, truckers now worry Weil's reappointment could lead to a crackdown on independent drivers who, rather than joining a union and working for a single company, purchase their own vehicles and take individual contracts from different businesses.
Today I joined @GovernorTomWolf in Carlisle, PA as Yellow Corporation launched its truck driving apprenticeship program.
Programs like these produce some of the safest, most skilled drivers on the road today. They strengthen our workforce and our supply chains. pic.twitter.com/es5DPuGmXh
— Secretary Marty Walsh (@SecMartyWalsh) March 29, 2022
More than a dozen trucker associations, including the National Association of Small Trucking Companies and Truckload Carriers Association, signed a February letter opposing Weil's nomination, saying the Biden nominee's "political agenda will disrupt the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans" by working to eliminate independent contractor status for truckers.
"The independent contractor model, primarily owner-operators, is critical in interstate, long-haul trucking," National Association of Small Trucking Companies spokesman James Edwards told the Washington Free Beacon. "This business model—blue-collar entrepreneurs—sits in the crosshairs of Mr. Weil."
The Senate will vote Wednesday on whether to approve Weil for the senior position. Biden nominated Weil in June 2021 to fill the vacant position but the nomination has faced delays due to widespread opposition to Weil's work for the Labor Department and as a professor. Walsh reportedly rallied in support of Weil's nomination despite early opposition from trade unions.
Weil took tens of thousands of dollars from labor unions in consulting fees prior to working for the Labor Department. He then took a job as dean at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. The school under his leadership launched a "21-Day Racial Equity Challenge" that included readings such as the New York Times‘s 1619 Project and "In Defense of Looting."
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee in January advanced Weil's nomination along party lines with an 11-10 vote thanks to a Republican absence. Sen. Mike Braun (R., Ind.) said Weil's extreme policy proposals will hurt workers financially nationwide.
"David Weil is an out-of-touch academic who will work against independent contractors and entrepreneurs and will put the gig economy as we know it in jeopardy," Braun told the Free Beacon.
Biden has referred to himself as the most pro-union president in history and has continued to rally Congress to pass the PRO Act, which moved through the House last year but has stalled in the Senate. The bill contains measures that limit the qualifications of independent contractors—similar to the regulations Weil pushed for during the Obama administration. Labor experts say the department under Biden is set to push for these policies through executive regulations once again as legislative efforts to adopt them stall.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, said the Democrat-led efforts to limit independent contractor qualifications are intended to boost their union allies, who can more easily maximize their membership of full-time employees.
"This is about paying back union officials," Mix told the Free Beacon. "The unions don't want anyone who can't unionize to be in the workplace."
The Labor Department did not respond to a request for comment.