November 18, 2021

Biden Announces Nominee to Head MSHA

President Joe Biden announced on Friday his intent to nominate Christopher J. Williamson, senior counsel to the chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), as the new assistant secretary for mine safety and health for MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Prior to his work at NLRB, the federal agency focused on safeguarding workers’ rights to organize, Williamson served in the Obama-Biden administration as a member of the senior leadership team at MSHA, advising the assistant secretary for MSHA on all aspects of agency policy, operations, and communications. The statement from the White House notes that Williamson also previously worked in the U.S. Senate as labor counsel to Chairman Tom Harkin on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and as a legislative assistant to Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“As labor counsel, [Williamson] advised Chairman Harkin and committee members on labor, occupational and mine safety and health, and black lung benefits and other workers’ compensation issues,” the statement explains. “Serving on Senator Manchin’s legislative team, Williamson was the senator’s primary policy advisor on labor, mine safety and health, pensions, and agriculture issues and also advised him on energy and environmental policy.”

The previous head of MSHA, David G. Zatezalo, former president and CEO of the coal company Rhino Resources GP, LLC, resigned in January. Jeannette J. Galanis currently leads MSHA as the acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. Galanis, who also serves as the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for policy, was appointed by President Biden in February.