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Julie Su's nomination as labor secretary moves forward following Biden's announcement

Julie Su’s nomination to become the nation’s secretary of labor once again advanced out of a U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday, Feb.  27, amid a year of congressional gridlock that has stalled President Joe Biden’s appointment of the former California labor secretary.

The party-line vote out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions comes after Biden’s re-nomination of Su last month to become Biden’s secretary of labor, a role long opposed by Senate Republicans, but which on Tuesday moves the nomination to the Senate floor, according to Reuters.

“Her strong pro-worker track record and tireless dedication to working families across this country shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is the right person for the job,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the HELP Committee. “I urge my colleagues to support her nomination.”

Su’s path to the re-nomination was a path fraught with starts and stops and criticism from  Republicans.

She has served as acting secretary of labor since March 2023, stepping in when then-Labor Secretary Marty Walsh left to head the National Hockey League’s players’ union. Biden tapped her a year ago for the cabinet position, but that nomination was never voted on in the Senate and stalled out at the end of last year.

Meanwhile, as acting secretary, GOP members have increasingly called for her nomination to be rejected. As Reuters noted, the Labor Department has upset business interests by adopting a rule that could limit independent contracting. A proposal to expand mandatory overtime pay to millions of workers has also irked GOP lawmakers.

On Tuesday, ranking GOP committee member Bill Cassidy, R-La., echoed such criticism.

“Since Julie Su’s first nomination hearing, the concerns over her leadership of DOL have only grown,” he said. “Ms. Su has continued to build a troubling record as Acting DOL Secretary, implementing policies that promote large labor unions at the expense of workers and economic growth,” said Dr. Cassidy. “The HELP Committee should have been able to address these issues directly with Ms. Su to properly conduct its constitutional duty to oversee the president’s nominees. It is unacceptable that the HELP Chair denied committee members this opportunity.”

Democrats tout Su’s leadership last year, when she was involved in helping negotiate a labor deal between West Coast dockworkers. Su, a civil rights attorney and former head of California’s labor department, was also central to negotiations between labor and freight rail companies in 2022, working to avert an economically debilitating strike. She also has worked to broaden employee training programs and crack down on wage theft.

Getting to the Senate floor is a victory for her supporters in the Senate. But it’s not a slamdunk, given Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate, complicated by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to the nomination.

Su’s roots run deep in Southern California.

She graduated from Whitney High School in Cerritos before moving on to Stanford, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. From there, she attended Harvard law school.

But it was as litigation director for Advancing Justice L.A., a non-profit civil rights organization, where her successful advocacy as lead attorney for El Monte garment workers alleging wage theft set a precedent. It expanded the scope of responsibility for retailers in the garment industry, from not just subcontractors but to the fashion designer labels that first contract with them.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown would take note, making her head of the state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) as the California labor commissioner. Gov. Gavin Newsom would make her secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.




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