The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Julie Su is a champion for workers everywhere. The Senate must confirm her.

President Biden’s nomination of Julie Su for Labor secretary presents an opportunity to appoint an experienced, historic, and committed leader who has dedicated her career to advocating for workers’ rights. Her nomination comes at a crucial time, as the country emerges from the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and workers across America are exercising their constitutional right to form a union in the face of corporate opposition and union-busting. At this critical juncture, workers need a strong advocate in the Department of Labor.

Su, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School who previously served as deputy labor secretary under Marty Walsh and as secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, has an impressive record of successfully fighting for the rights of low-wage workers, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. She has spearheaded efforts to combat wage theft, expand access to health care and paid family leave, and provide legal services for workers facing exploitation. Her work has been recognized by numerous organizations including the MacArthur Foundation, which awarded her a “genius grant” in 2001.

Despite her obvious competency and qualifications, Su’s nomination has faced opposition and hesitation from some in the Senate, who have raised concerns about her administrative capability and support for policies with widespread backing from the American people, such as raising the minimum wage and expanding access to health care. This opposition reflects a worrying trend of declining Senate deference to presidential nominations.

American history is riddled with far more controversial nominees who have been confirmed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis, including in the previous administration. Indeed, the framers did not anticipate the Senate confirmation process becoming a nexus of partisan brinksmanship. Alexander Hamilton predicted in Federalist 76 that presidential nominees would generally be approved by the Senate unless there were “special and strong reasons for the refusal.” No such reasons exist here.

While it is natural for senators to have different policy priorities and preferences, opposition to Su’s nomination on ideological grounds is unjustified. As a dedicated public servant with a proven track record of working across party lines to support workers, Su is well within the mainstream of American thought and precisely the kind of leader the country needs at the Department of Labor, whose stated mission is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees.”

Su’s nomination has received support from a wide range of organizations and individuals, including labor unions, immigrant rights groups, and civil rights organizations. These groups recognize Su’s commitment to advancing policies that support workers’ rights and promote equity and justice in the workplace.

For example, a joint letter from the Economic Policy Institute and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) urges the Senate to confirm Su’s nomination, stating that she has “a strong record of standing up for low-wage workers and immigrants, combating wage theft, promoting worker health and safety, and protecting workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.”

Similarly, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) has applauded Su’s nomination, noting that she has been a “tireless advocate for the rights of all workers, especially low-wage and immigrant workers, and has worked to create policies that promote worker health and safety, access to quality education and training, and good jobs.”

The Department of Labor has a critical role to play in ensuring that our labor laws are followed and that American workers are protected and empowered. From enforcing workplace safety regulations, to promoting access to training and education, to ensuring workers’ constitutional right to form a union is not infringed by union-busting corporations, the Department of Labor touches the lives of millions of workers every day. The union I lead proudly represents more than 10,000 labor employees. The Labor secretary must be someone who is committed to advancing policies that help workers thrive. By this standard, Su is undoubtedly qualified.

Su’s nomination is another example of the Biden administration’s commitment to promoting worker rights and advancing equity in the workplace. In his first days in office, President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at improving workplace safety, promoting worker organizing and collective bargaining, and addressing systemic racism and discrimination in the workplace.

As Labor secretary, Su would be well-positioned to continue these efforts and help build a more just and equitable economy for all workers. She could work to strengthen workplace safety regulations, enforce wage and hour laws, and promote access to training and education. She also could support efforts to raise the minimum wage, expand access to health care and paid family leave, and ensure that workers have a voice in the workplace through collective bargaining and unionization.

Finally, Su’s nomination highlights the need for more diversity and representation in leadership positions throughout the federal government. If confirmed, she would be the second-ever Asian American woman to hold the role. Her nomination sends a powerful message that our democracy is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects of government.

Julie Su is an excellent choice for Labor secretary. Her long record of achievement, coupled with the widespread support she has received from key stakeholders, demonstrates that she would be a strong voice for workers and equity in the workplace. The Senate should put aside ideological opposition and partisan gamesmanship and confirm her without delay.

Everett Kelley is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 700,000 federal and D.C. government employees

Tags Department of Labor Joe Biden

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Congress Blog News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video