WASHINGTON — President Biden on Feb. 28 announced his intent to nominate Julie Su to serve as secretary of the Department of Labor.

Julie Su

If confirmed, Su will be the first Asian American to serve in the Biden Administration at the Cabinet level.

“It is my honor to nominate Julie Su to be our country’s next secretary of labor,” Biden said. “Julie has spent her life fighting to make sure that everyone has a fair shot, that no community is overlooked, and that no worker is left behind. Over several decades, Julie has led the largest state labor department in the nation, cracked down on wage theft, fought to protect trafficked workers, increased the minimum wage, created good-paying, high-quality jobs, and established and enforced workplace safety standards.

“Julie is a champion for workers, and she has been a critical partner to Secretary [Marty] 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 healthcare are good-paying, stable and accessible jobs for all.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Julie to build an economy that works for working people, and I respectfully ask the Senate to take up this nomination quickly so that we can finish the job for America’s workers.”

Su has spent her career fighting for workers, and currently serves as the deputy secretary of labor, a position she has held since her July 2021 Senate confirmation. As deputy secretary, Su has worked side by side with Walsh to advance Biden’s vision of a strong, resilient, inclusive economy with worker well-being at its center.

Previously, Su was the labor secretary for the State of California, where she worked closely with unions and employers to build high-road training partnerships to connect people — often those left out of prosperity — to good, union jobs. Su began her life in government service as the California labor commissioner; in that capacity she launched the “Wage Theft Is a Crime” campaign with the support of both labor and management.

Su spent 17 years as a civil rights attorney representing workers who are often invisible, including 72 Thai garment workers who were trafficked into the U.S. and forced to work behind barbed wire and under armed guard. Her work earned her a MacArthur “genius” award.

Su, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, is the daughter of immigrants, speaks Mandarin and Spanish, and has two daughters, LiMei and AnLing, who are both in college.

“Julie Su is a longtime advocate for workers — first in my home state of California, and now as a leader in the Biden-Harris Administration,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. “She understands that the future of our economy depends on building a well-trained and inclusive workforce. I look forward to continuing to work with Julie, who will help fulfill our pledge to be the most pro-worker administration in history as our country’s next secretary of labor.”

She added, “Marty Walsh is a true champion of America’s workers. Over the past two years, Secretary Walsh and I have traveled the nation to meet with workers at union halls, training centers, and job sites. We have worked together as chair and vice chair of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. I have seen Secretary Walsh when the cameras are on, and when they are off. And he is always fighting for the rights and dignity of America’s workers. I am grateful to Marty for his service to our administration and our country, and for his friendship.”

“Julie Su is the most qualified person to be our nation’s next secretary of labor and I’m thrilled that President Biden nominated her to serve in his Cabinet today,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). “With her proven track-record serving as the Department of Labor’s chief operating officer, I’m confident Deputy Secretary Su is prepared to lead the department on Day One, and more importantly, know that she will continue to put workers’ rights first and push to expand fair labor practices.

“Julie Su also brings a unique perspective that will only help her as she works to make sure all Americans are represented in the policies crafted and implemented by this administration. I will do everything I can to ensure her nomination is successful and look forward to working with Julie Su and President Biden to help build a stronger, more resilient economy where everyone can thrive.”

“President Biden made the right choice in nominating Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su to serve as the next secretary of labor,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “Throughout her career, Deputy Secretary Su has been a strong and effective champion for working people, fighting to combat wage theft, create jobs and ensure workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. For the past two years, Deputy Secretary Su has played a critical role at DOL, working closely with Secretary Walsh to build a more inclusive economy that provides every American with the opportunity to succeed. 

“When confirmed, Deputy Secretary Su will be the first AAPI Cabinet-level secretary in the Biden Administration, bringing critical diversity and lived experience to DOL and this administration. President Biden has shown his continued confidence in Deputy Secretary Su and I look forward to voting to confirm her as quickly as possible so she can continue building on this administration’s record of standing with working people and ensuring no community is left behind.”

“I am elated that President Biden is nominating Julie Su to be our nation’s next labor secretary,” tweeted Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “She’s eminently qualified to lead the department and will successfully deliver results for our workers on Day 1. Thank you, POTUS, for nominating your first AAPI Cabinet secretary!”

On Feb. 17, Chu sent a letter along with four senators and 29 members of the House urging Biden to nominate Su. Among those who signed the letter were Hirono, Duckworth, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.), Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Rep. Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii) and Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands).

CAPA21, an Asian American Pacific Islander political action committee, also sent a letter to Biden supporting Su’s appointment. The Feb. 10 letter reads, in part: “In addition to Deputy Secretary Su being supremely qualified to serve as secretary of labor, her appointment and confirmation would fill the glaring absence of an Asian American Pacific Islander in your Cabinet, an exclusion that we did not have the shame of experiencing in the past four administrations and for more than 20 years. Even Donald Trump included an AAPI in his Cabinet [Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao]. We were promised a Cabinet that looks like America, but the promise has yet to be realized.”

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