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Official with Strong Union Ties Gets Nod as Murphy’s Labor Commissioner

New governor expects Robert Asaro-Angelo, who has deep roots in Democratic Party, to be ‘champion’ for working class

Robert Asaro-Angelo
Robert Asaro-Angelo

Governor-elect Phil Murphy has nominated Robert Asaro-Angelo, a former labor official in the Obama administration, as Labor Commissioner.

Murphy has also named 11 new members of his senior office staff, one of whom also served in the Obama administration and several others have served in Washington. Even before he was elected, many Democrats hoped Murphy would reach beyond New Jersey to find experienced officials.

If confirmed, Asaro-Angelo will head up the Department of Labor and Workforce Development overseeing the state’s workforce training programs, enforcing wage and hour laws for workers, administering the state’s unemployment insurance program, and dealing with workers’ compensation, temporary disability, and family leave programs, among other responsibilities. He will be replacing Aaron Fichtner who was sworn in as commissioner in June 2017 after serving as acting commissioner since September 2016.

“Rob will ensure fair labor practices, fight wage theft, and preserve the basic tenants [sic] of organized labor in our state,” Murphy said in a press release. “Now more than ever, our working class needs a champion, and I am confident that Robert will be that champion.”

Wage-theft reform and a minimum wage hike were two of the core principles of Murphy’s campaign and, if confirmed, Asaro-Angelo would be a key figure in carrying out those promises.

Asaro-Angelo, 42, currently serves as a principal for Working Solutions, LLC, a firm he founded in 2017. In 2010, he was appointed Eastern Regional Representative for the U.S. Department of Labor under President Barack Obama and served until last year. In this role, he represented the DOL in the Northeast, and coordinated federal policy in 17 states including New York and New Jersey as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also served on intergovernmental work groups including the White House Hurricane Sandy Task Force and the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico.

Before serving in the Obama administration he was the executive director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.

Asaro-Angelo is the son of union organizers and has worked for the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), AFSCME, and SEIU 1199. He holds a master’s in Public Policy from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.

Other Murphy appointments include Mahen Gunaratna as director of communications. Gunaratna is currently deputy communications director to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Read the list of appointees.

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