DemDaily: Biden’s New Labor Secretary

March 2, 2023

President Biden has nominated Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su to serve as Secretary of the Department of Labor, replacing outgoing Secretary Marty Walsh, who announced he would be departing in mid-March.

Walsh, the first statutory member of Biden’s Cabinet to depart the administration, is leaving to become head of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), the NHL players' union.

Before being tapped by Biden, he served as the 54th mayor of Boston from 2014 to 2021 and previously in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 until 2014.

The son of Irish immigrants. Walsh grew up in a labor family, joining the Laborers' Union Local 223 at age 21 and rising to become the union's president and, eventually the President of Boston Building Trades.

Walsh, who credits Biden as "the most pro-worker and pro-union president" in US history, is the first former union leader to serve as Secretary of Labor in roughly 45 years.

Under his leadership, the Labor Department has pushed for a reshaping of workplace laws and regulations, including a rule that would lower the bar for who must be classified as an employee of a company rather than an independent contractor. He implemented new guidelines aimed at encouraging more federal workers to join unions, and in September negotiated a tentative agreement to avert a nationwide rail strike.

"I believe in the transformative power of America, and I know the transformative power of a good job. To all workers who are toiling in the shadows, to workers who are organizing for power and respect in the workplace, know that we see you." - Labor Secretary nominee Julie Su

In announcing Su as his nominee to succeed Walsh, President Biden said, "Julie is a tested and experienced leader who will continue to build a stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive economy that provides Americans a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead."

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Su attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School before starting a career as a civil rights attorney with the Asian-Pacific American Legal Center (APALC).

As Litigation Director for the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, she led a ground-breaking federal lawsuit in 1995 to hold brand-name garment manufacturers and retailers liable for utilizing slave labor to manufacture their clothing. In the El Monte Thai Garment Slavery Case, she successfully pursued a legal theory that held the companies and operators responsible for wage theft, which also led to the creation of the T-Visa to protect victims of human trafficking. Her work earned her the Reebok International Human Rights Award and the MacArthur “Genius” Award.

In 2011 she was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown as Commissioner for California's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and in 2019 was appointed Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Su has served as Deputy Secretary of Labor under President Biden since 2021 after being confirmed by a 50-47 vote of the US Senate. If confirmed for the top Labor post, she will become Biden's first AAPI Cabinet Secretary.

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Sources: White House, PBS, NPR, NBC

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