When Martin J. Walsh got his union card in 1988, he essentially entered the family business. Laborers Local 223 counted his father as a member. It was led by his uncle. His cousin, Martin F. Walsh, now runs the union. Another cousin is the office manager.
Walsh himself worked on the back-breaking side of the union for only two years, hauling rocks and filling dumpsters, before taking a series of increasingly prominent desk jobs that culminated in a $175,000-a-year job as the head of the city’s largest building trades group.
During his 25 years as a union man, Walsh rose to become one of the key figures in Boston’s construction industry, a politically connected labor leader who understood how to usher a project past neighborhood opposition, secure state financing, and keep the peace with developers.
He negotiated pay raises for public employees and hammered out agreements with some of the city’s biggest builders to ensure they would hire only union workers, all the while holding down a second job as a state representative.
On the campaign trail, he is more likely to discuss his struggles with cancer and alcohol. But unions are his life’s work, and his family’s legacy. His support for labor, he once said, could never be shaken.
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