The congressman’s name is being floated for the president’s cabinet, but he’s downplaying the chatter.
Multiple trade unions, including the United Auto Workers, the Communication Workers of America, National Nurses United and Utility Workers Union of America, are publicly backing Rep. Andy Levin for the position of Labor Secretary in the Biden administration.
But Levin himself is staying mum at the moment.
“It’s an incredible honor to be mentioned as a possible Secretary of Labor, and who knows what will happen with that,” the progressive Michigan Jewish Democrat told the Jewish News. “But it’s up to President-elect Biden to pick his cabinet.”
Levin, who just won re-election to a Congressional seat he has only held for one term, said he hasn’t had any conversations with the Biden team about the position. And unlike other names being bandied about for the role, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, he isn’t actively campaigning for it.
“There are people I work with who seem to think that this would be a good idea,” Levin said. “I’m preparing for the 117th Congress with great excitement, and that’s certainly the plan for now.”
Biden is expected to announce his cabinet picks within the next few weeks.
The son of longtime U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, who represented the same district for more than three decades, and the nephew of retired Sen. Carl Levin, Andy is the latest link in what the Forward recently called “America’s only Jewish political dynasty.” He is the co-founder of Detroit Jews for Justice and past president of Congregation T’Chiyah.
He has been an advocate for labor rights for much of his career, having worked as the director of Voice@Work, a program for expanding trade union members, and chief workforce officer for former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Levin described his fights for the right to organize as “my life’s work.”
Levin is also one of the most progressive members of Congress. He serves as deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, including the Green New Deal and the EV Freedom Act (a bill to install electric vehicle charging stations across the country).
Regardless of who becomes Biden’s Labor Secretary, Levin said he’s confident that “he’ll be a really great president for the working people.”
And he believes Biden will take progressive positions on many other issues, including climate change and racial justice, even though Biden was perceived as being much more of a centrist on the campaign trail. Levin noted that the president-elect’s proposed climate change plan already tackles the problem more aggressively than President Obama did while in office.
One position any Labor Secretary would have to face right away is the issue of worker relief related to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown period. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a new three-week restriction period in the state this week to curb record levels of spread for the disease, but neither the state legislature nor the federal government are moving forward on economic relief packages. Many analysts fear this could be a death knell for local businesses and jobs.
“It’s a shonda” that more aid isn’t forthcoming from Congress, Levin said. He directed criticism at Senate Republicans for stalling action on the HEROES Act, a relief package that passed the House earlier this year. “I want to climb up on the highest hilltop and call out my anguish and my sympathy.”
Levin’s district, which includes Oakland and Macomb Counties, voted overwhelmingly for Biden, delivering 44,000 more votes for him than it did for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and helping to secure the candidate’s 145,000-vote margin of victory in the state. “So I feel like we did our little part in helping him win,” Levin said.
He noted that President Trump’s campaign has been spreading baseless allegations of voter fraud in Detroit, where Trump did slightly better than his 2016 numbers, rather than in Levin’s district, where he did substantially worse than in 2016. “I don’t see them complaining about fraud in Bloomfield Township or Royal Oak or Clinton Township or Sterling Heights or something.”
Regardless of whether he gets the top job or remains in Congress, Levin said he will continue to fight for labor and union causes.
“I feel like wherever I am, my mission is to create a more just society and raise the standard of living for working people,” he said. “And I feel like it’s been an incredible opportunity to work on that.”