Senate Committee Advances Julie Su as Labor Nominee

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Vote Went Down Party Lines
Julie Su speaks during a confirmation hearing
Julie Su speaks during an April 20 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirmation hearing for her to be the Labor Secretary, on Capitol Hill. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

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A committee in the U.S. Senate on April 26 approved the nomination of Julie Su for the top job at the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 11-10 party-line vote by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced the nominee to the floor of the Senate. The chamber’s Democratic leaders intend to consider Su’s nomination in the near term.

Leading up to the committee’s approval, Senate Democrats, as well as panel Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed support for the nominee.

“Working families have been struggling for the last many decades. While we have massive income and wealth inequality, the working families of this country — in the Labor Department — are entitled to have a secretary who is going to stand up and fight for them,” Sanders told colleagues prior to the vote.

Bernie Sanders


Republicans on the committee pushed back with a unified opposition.

“Su has a decadeslong record of partisan activism, promoting policies that undermine workers to the benefit of politically connected labor unions,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the panel’s ranking member, said prior to the vote. He also took aim at Su’s record as a senior official in California. At issue has been her role in overseeing a recent California law that set conditions for employers to classify workers as independent contractors.



American Trucking Associations raised concerns about the nominee, citing the California law, referred to as AB 5.

California’s AB 5, which Ms. Su helped pass and implement as secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, essentially outlaws their business model,” ATA President Chris Spear wrote the committee last month in reference to independent contractors. “AB 5 is designed to strip independent drivers of their choice and right to operate as contractors for motor carriers, in essence forcing them to become company employee drivers.”

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also opposes the nominee: “We are concerned that Ms. Su would continue to pursue an ideologically motivated agenda toward worker classification that ignores the thousands of small-business truckers that depend on the ability to work as an independent contractor.”

“Make no mistake, if Ms. Su were to advance the same policies that she championed in California, it would force hundreds of thousands of truckers to change their business model and put their livelihood in jeopardy,” said Todd Spencer, president and CEO at OOIDA. “We are especially concerned with her nomination at a time when the Department of Labor is working on an updated worker classification rule.”

Support for the nominee is led by union groups. “Workers deserve a Labor Secretary who will fiercely defend working people,” the AFL-CIO has stated, referring to Su.

At her April 20 hearing though, Su said she wouldn’t try to advance the California standard at the federal level and understands the value of independent contractors, while also asserting that the classification issue “is a problem in our economy that needs to be addressed.”

Addressing her record during her time in California, she told senators in a 2021 hearing, “For the last 10 years, I have served the people of California to build a fair and inclusive economy that values workers and supports businesses, all of whom want a fair shot at opportunity and security. I have prioritized innovative partnerships with employers, ensured robust enforcement of labor laws, and worked to combat wage theft.”

If confirmed, Su, the department’s acting secretary, would succeed Secretary Marty Walsh, who has taken a position as the National Hockey League Players’ Association executive director.

In nominating Su in February, President Joe Biden noted, “Julie is a champion for workers, and she has been a critical partner to Secretary Walsh since the early days of my administration.”

“She helped avert a national rail shutdown, improved access to good jobs free from discrimination through my Good Jobs Initiative, and is ensuring that the jobs we create in critical sectors like semiconductor manufacturing, broadband and health care are good-paying, stable and accessible jobs for all,” the president added.

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