Elizabeth Watson, who has a lengthy history in youth and family policy and income inequality, has been nominated to be the Biden administration’s point person to Congress and the states on labor issues.
The administration named Watson as its nominee for assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs on Tuesday. Watson must be confirmed by the Senate, but as a “privileged” lower-level political nominee, she will not go through a rigorous vetting process unless a senator sees a red flag in her responses to a labor committee questionnaire and asks for one.
Watson will help run point on policy for a branch of the federal government that oversees programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is designed to help job seekers find work, education, training and support services and to match employers with skilled workers. This includes the youth employment training program ($913 million in 2020), Job Corps ($1.7 billion), apprenticeships ($175 million) and YouthBuild ($95 million).
At the labor department, Watson would run the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, which is responsible for communicating Biden’s priorities and policies. Biden wants to strengthen the right and ability of workers to form unions and to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, which would benefit millions of young workers and families.
The president has already announced plans to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour.
Watson has spent much of her career working on labor and economic policy, according to a bio released by the White House. Currently, she runs the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center. Previously, she served as the director of labor policy and chief labor counsel on the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Earlier, Watson directed the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy and worked at the National Women’s Law Center, among other things. Watson taught courses in employment law and the legislative process at Indiana University and clerked for a federal judge in California after earning a law degree at Georgetown University.
She ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in Indiana in 2018.