California’s labor secretary, Julie Su, is in serious contention to join the Biden Administration as secretary of labor, according to Politico.
Appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in January 2019, Su leads the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA), which enforces workplace laws, combats wage theft, ensures health and safety on the job, connects Californians to quality jobs and career pathways, and administers unemployment insurance, workers compensation and paid family leave.
LWDA oversees seven major departments, boards, and panels that serve California workers and businesses by improving access to training, promoting high road jobs, eliminating barriers to employment, and creating a level playing field for employers.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Su, 51, is a nationally recognized expert on workers’ rights and civil rights who has dedicated her legal career to advancing justice on behalf of poor and disenfranchised communities and is a past recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.
As California labor commissioner from 2011 through 2018, Su enforced the state’s labor laws to ensure a fair and just workplace for both employees and employers. A report on her tenure released in May 2013 found that her leadership has resulted in a renaissance in enforcement activity and record-setting results.
In 2014, she launched the first “Wage Theft Is a Crime” multimedia, multilingual statewide campaign to reach out to low-wage workers and their employers to help them understand their rights and feel safe speaking up about labor law abuses.
Previously, Su was the litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, the nation’s largest nonprofit civil rights organization devoted to issues affecting the Asian American community. She is known for pioneering a multi-strategy approach that combines successful impact litigation with multiracial organizing, community education, policy reform, coalition building, and media work.
Frequently named to top-lawyer lists such as the Daily Journal’s “Top 75 Women Litigators” in California and California Lawyer’s “Super Lawyers,” she was the first labor commissioner to be included among the Daily Journal’s “Top 75 Labor and Employment Lawyers.” She has also been named one of the 50 most noteworthy women alumni of Harvard Law School and one of the 100 most influential people in L.A. in Los Angeles Magazine.
Su has taught at UCLA Law School and Northeastern Law School. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School and began her career with a Skadden Fellowship. Su speaks Mandarin and Spanish.
If selected and confirmed, Su would be the second Asian American to serve as labor secretary after Elaine Chao, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001. Chao is currently President Trump’s secretary of transportation.
AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC, sent a letter to President-elect Biden on Nov. 21 backing Su to lead DOL, calling her an “exceptionally qualified AAPI candidate who we believe should be under consideration.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) tweeted on Dec. 11, “Julie Su represents the best of what this country can be. Her clear record of achievement, innovation, and leadership would be a significant advantage to the Department of Labor. She would be an invaluable addition to Joe Biden’s Cabinet.”
According to Politico, other rumored favorites to lead DOL are mostly white and male names that have split support from organized labor, such as former Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
Su has declined to comment on her possible appointment.