Amid Growing Opposition, Labor Nominee Su Awaits Senate Vote

Labor Department Candidate Supports Controversial AB 5 Law
Julie Su and Joe Manchin
Senator Joe Manchin said he believes Julie Su's more progressive background prevents her from being able to lead the Labor Department permanently. (Manchin by Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press; inset photo of Su by Department of Labor)

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Julie Su’s nomination to lead the Labor Department moved closer to defeat with the announcement of Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition.

The Democrat from West Virginia recently joined Senate Republicans in opposing Su for the department’s top job. The nominee currently leads the department in an acting capacity.

“I believe the person leading the U.S. Department of Labor should have the experience to collaboratively lead both labor and industry to forge compromises acceptable to both parties,” Manchin said July 13. “While her credentials and qualifications are impressive, I have genuine concerns that Julie Su’s more progressive background prevents her from doing this, and for that reason, I cannot support her nomination to serve as secretary of labor.”

Last month, nearly three dozen Republican senators called on President Joe Biden to withdraw Su’s nomination to lead the department. “Her track record and unwillingness to provide clarity to her past positions and the actions she would take as secretary of labor continue to raise concerns about her nomination,” the senators wrote to Biden on June 20.

Sen. Chuck Schumer


Keeping the nomination on life support is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The chamber’s top Democrat continued to express support for Su despite pushback from Senate colleagues. A floor vote on Su’s nomination, however, has not been scheduled since her committee approval in April.

“I think she’ll be a very good labor secretary, and we’re working hard to get her approved,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill on July 11. The nominee is endorsed by various stakeholders, including unions.

Opposing her nomination are freight stakeholders, such as American Trucking Associations.

At issue is Su’s record specific to a California law known as AB 5. That law sets conditions for employers to reclassify independent contractors as employees.

ATA President Chris Spear recently wrote to Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “As we highlighted in a March letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, we have grave concerns over Ms. Su’s role in implementing California’s disastrous [AB 5], which essentially outlawed this business model for trucking.”

Chris Spear


At her confirmation hearing earlier this year, Su propounded a vision for the department. “I believe that the Department of Labor should make it as easy as possible for employers to keep workers safe on the job. If confirmed, you can count on me to listen to employers’ views about how best to do that. All of this experience brings me to today. President Biden asked me to ‘finish the job’ that Secretary [Marty] Walsh and I started. If confirmed as the secretary of labor, I would work to preserve and expand the American dream for all Americans.”

Su’s background from the Labor Department emphasizes her tenure at the state-level agency: “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 resulted in a renaissance in enforcement activity and record-setting results.” If confirmed by the Senate, she would succeed former Secretary Walsh, who left the Biden administration to become executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association.

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