WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate confirmed Julie Su as deputy U.S. labor secretary on July 13 in a 50-47 vote.

Su, most recently the secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, will help Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who was confirmed in March, lead the department as the nation continues its pandemic response. Su had earlier been considered for the top job.

 “On behalf of all Californians, Jen and I want to thank Julie Su for her service to this state and congratulate her on her confirmation to serve as our nation’s deputy secretary of labor,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “Julie joined my administration in the very beginning with a shared vision to create a California for All. She represents the best California has to offer – a champion for our state’s workers who tirelessly fights for equity, inclusiveness and social justice.

“Julie has been fighting for workers’ rights from California for nearly three decades. And now, as deputy secretary of labor, she will help our country build a more inclusive economy that works for all Americans as we recover from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said prior to the vote, “It is clear that workers need a deputy secretary of labor who is committed to building back a stronger, fairer economy, someone who will work diligently to make sure workers have a fairer and just workplace, a livable wage, a secure retirement, safe working conditions, access to accommodations and are treated with dignity and respect, which is why I’m so glad to support Julie Su’s nomination.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) also spoke in support of Su. “As California’s secretary of labor and workforce development, Julie Su oversees and protects the workforce for the State of California, the fifth-largest economy in the world. We need her leadership skills and proven track record at the Department of Labor.”

Despite the close vote total, no senators spoke against Su’s nomination.

The HELP Committee approved her nomination in a 13-9 vote in April. At her nomination hearing before the same committee in March, retirement issues weren’t a focus, but Su welcomed the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which took place in March and included a provision creating a federal assistance program for struggling multiemployer pension funds.

As the only two Asian Americans in the Senate, Hirono and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said in April, “The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Secretary Su’s background shaped her personally and professionally, forging a deep and abiding dedication to public service. Her parents worked multiple jobs and ran small businesses to make ends meet and provide their daughters with opportunities they never had. Their long hours and sacrifices gave her a nearly unparalleled understanding of the myriad barriers faced by working people and people of color in this country, an insight that is reflected in her long and distinguished record of fighting for workers’ and civil rights. 

Julie Su

“From defending the freedom of Thai garment workers to protecting low-wage workers against exploitation to building multiracial coalitions to fight back against racial injustices, Secretary Su has dedicated her career to helping people and communities who might not otherwise have access to justice.”

Comments from members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus:

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “Whether standing up for enslaved Thai garment workers in Southern California or fighting the exploitation of truck drivers at ports, Julie Su has been a dedicated champion of workers’ rights – especially workers from vulnerable communities – throughout her entire career. With today’s confirmation vote, I am thrilled that she will be bringing this experience, knowledge, and perspective to the Biden Administration. 

“An experienced attorney who fought for workers’ rights at Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ-LA), Julie has made a career of fighting unjust labor practices that has continued into her most recent role as the California labor secretary, where she has fought against wage theft and for the health and safety of all workers during the pandemic. I know that she will be a valuable partner to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and will faithfully advance President Biden’s goals of protecting and improving the well-being of our country’s workforce.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), CAPAC first vice chair: “I am thrilled to congratulate Julie Su on her successful confirmation as deputy secretary of labor. A daughter of Chinese immigrants and a lifelong advocate for working families, Julie brings a wealth of experience and perspective to the Department of Labor that will help advance justice for America’s workers. 

“From her recent role as California’s labor secretary, to her background at Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ-LA), Julie brings the expertise and compassion needed to serve in this role. Her efforts as deputy secretary of labor will also be critical in getting workers back on their feet, and ensuring protections for them, as our nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. I applaud Julie Su’s confirmation and look forward to working with her and President Biden to protect the rights of American workers.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC second vice chair: “Congratulations to Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su on her Senate confirmation. I’m pleased that Ms. Su will be granted the opportunity to use her vast experience as an advocate for working families on a national scale. This is well-deserved, and I can’t wait to see all the great work that Ms. Su will do to support workers in California and across America.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), CAPAC whip: “I join others in congratulating Julie Su on her confirmation to be deputy secretary of labor. Having known Julie for many years, I know she will be an outstanding member of the Biden Administration. Through her experience as California labor secretary and previously as California labor commissioner, Julie has dedicated her career to fighting for workers and protecting their health and safety. I’m proud to see her in this role and look forward to working alongside her.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “Not only is Julie Su highly qualified for this role, but as a woman of color, she brings a unique perspective that will help her as she works to make sure all Americans are represented in the policies crafted and implemented by President Biden’s Department of Labor. Given her proven track-record supporting American workers, I have confidence that she will put workers’ rights first and do everything she can to expand fair labor practices. I look forward to working with Julie Su to help build back a better, more resilient economy where everyone can thrive.”

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.): “Julie isn’t just an exemplary public servant, she’s a fierce advocate for America’s working families and a leader we can all truly be proud of. Her confirmation is a big step forward not just for American workers, but for the AAPI community. Having AAPI representation in important positions like hers will help in our fight for equality and will provide a role model for a next generation of aspiring AAPI public servants.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.): “As the newly confirmed deputy secretary of labor, Julie will ensure that the voices of working people are always at the table as the Department of Labor and the entire Biden Administration leads our country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. From her time fighting for full civil rights as the litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles to her dedicated public service on behalf of workers as California labor commissioner and the state’s labor secretary, Julie has spent years powerfully advocating for working people, families, and a more equitable economy. 

“I am excited to see such a brilliant, talented, and experienced leader confirmed as President Biden recognizes the wealth of contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and continues to build an administration that reflects the diversity and strength of America.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.): “Julie Su will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Department of Labor. Throughout her distinguished career, she has stood up for vulnerable workers, championed labor rights, and improved the lives of workers and families across California. Her strong record of leadership is precisely what we need during this difficult time for our nation’s workers.”

Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.): “I am elated that Julie Su, a strong defender of all workers and leader in the AAPI community, has been confirmed as President Biden’s deputy secretary of labor. Our nation is stronger when our government looks like the people it represents, which means ensuring that there are visible and talented AAPI leaders, like Julie Su, at the highest levels of government. I want to congratulate Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su and I look forward to working with her to support workers and working families here in the South Sound and across the nation.”

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