President Joe Biden has announced California Labor Secretary Julie Su for his nominee to serve in the number 2 position at the U.S. Labor Department. A crucial position for a Department that President Biden has tasked with helping to repair the economy from the pandemic’s devastation while ensuring Americans can safely return to worksites.
According to the California Labor & Workforce website, “As California Labor Commissioner from 2011 through 2018, Su enforced the State’s labor laws to ensure a fair and just workplace for both employees and employers. A report on her tenure released in May 2013 found that her leadership has resulted in a renaissance in enforcement activity and record-setting results. In 2014, she launched the first ‘Wage Theft Is a Crime’ multimedia, multilingual statewide campaign to reach out to low-wage workers and their employers to help them understand their rights and feel safe speaking up about labor law abuses.”
Ms. Su has earned respect among labor leaders and worker advocates over her decades spent advocating for low-wage and immigrant communities, initially as a civil rights lawyer and for the past 10 years as the California Labor Commissioner. In addition, Su has been praised by California unions for advancing organized labor’s priorities, such as efforts to combat employer misclassification of workers as independent contractors.
Since taking over as head of the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency in 2019, Ms. Su has been charged with leading California’s massive state bureaucracy through an unprecedented workforce crisis caused by the pandemic.
To formally be confirmed in the position, Ms. Su must now face Senate confirmation. Ms. Su’s appointment comes at the heels of a giant push from left leaning progressives to nominate her for the Secretary of Labor position. However, that nomination went to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
One vocal advocate for Ms. Su’s appointment was the National Immigration Law Center. The NILC submitted a letter to then President-Elect Biden in December, 2020 “urging” him to nominate Julie Su as the Secretary of Labor.
“She has shown herself to be a visionary and innovative leader who will be able to maximize the impact the Labor Department can have in addressing economic inequality and racial injustice,” the groups said in the letter.
The deputy secretary traditionally is charged with handling day-to-day operations for the 15,000-employee Cabinet agency, while also implementing the president’s and the secretary’s priorities. Previous DOL deputy secretaries have taken on varying degrees of policy influence, depending on their professional background and the administration’s needs.
Insiders who follow the Labor Department closely said Su’s background as a labor and employment attorney would complement Walsh in framing Biden’s workforce agenda, if both are confirmed. Su’s career has focused on workplace enforcement and litigation, while Walsh, who isn’t a lawyer, is a two-term mayor with experience in running a large city bureaucracy and leading political messaging.
When it comes to the Senate confirmation hearings, it is almost guaranteed that Ms. Su will face questions regarding her oversight of California’s unemployment benefits system. Recently, a law enforcement task force found evidence of fraud in the state’s UI agency, with tens of thousands of claims paid to incarcerated Californians.
The California business community also has expressed concerns that Su would bring her state’s liberal labor policies to the national stage, leading to regulatory overreach.
In addition, one business group took out a full-page in the Washington edition of the Wall Street Journal attacking Su’s qualification. The ad highlighted the “fraudulent payments” in connection with California’s unemployment insurance, and what it framed as the state’s anti-employer labor laws.
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About Harrison Oldham
Harrison grew up in Mansfield, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University for his bachelor’s degree, where he met his wonderful wife, Kelsey. After graduating magna cum laude from Texas A&M, he attended SMU Dedman School of Law, graduating with honors in 2012. Today, Harrison and his wife live in Dallas, Texas with their son, Teddy.
Since graduating from SMU Law, Harrison has worked exclusively in the field of business law. He has spent time in private practice and in-house, working with clients of every size; from single person startups to Fortune 250 companies. Today his practice focuses on serving the diverse needs of businesses and individuals throughout Texas. You can learn more about Harrison by visiting his website, at: http://