Julie Su Is the Leader Our Nation Needs at the Department of Labor

On March 1, during a ceremony at the White House, President Biden announced his nominee to serve as the next secretary of labor: Julie Su.

“Sixty years ago, my mom came to the United States on a cargo ship because she couldn’t afford a passenger ticket,” Su said that day. “Recently, she got a call from the president of the United States telling her that her daughter was going to be nominated to be U.S. labor secretary. So I believe in the transformative power of America.”

During her confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Su spoke more about her upbringing — about her parents finding opportunity in Provo, Utah, about understanding the critical importance of a good union job, and about knowing that small business owners are the engines of our economy, something she saw firsthand as her parents owned a drycleaning and laundromat business and then a franchise pizza restaurant.

Su would go on to become the first lawyer in her family and would then spend nearly two decades representing workers.

“What I learned is that too many people still work full-time, year round, and live in poverty. Too many are denied a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. At the same time, I learned that working people, when given a chance to organize, to be heard, not only make things better for themselves, but help to bring the American dream within reach to those around them,” Su said during her hearing. “If confirmed, I will bring these lessons and experiences to my role as we continue to rebuild the economy. I will work to ensure that hard work pays off for workers and for small businesses just like it did for my family.”

Su, who was confirmed in 2021 as deputy secretary and who is currently serving as acting secretary of the Department of Labor, is an exemplary leader whose career in public service, professional experience as a civil rights lawyer, and lived experience as an Asian American woman make her exceptionally qualified for the important role of secretary of labor. Her career has reflected a deep understanding of how equity, justice, and economic security are linked — especially for communities of color, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and other groups who have borne the historic and ongoing burden of systemic discrimination. The inequalities in the labor market long experienced by these communities were exacerbated by the economic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of the Department of Labor is critical to supporting working people in the aftermath of that crisis and to addressing these historic inequities and building an inclusive economy that works for all.

Su’s nomination is also a critical step toward increasing Asian American representation in President Biden’s Cabinet. If confirmed, she would be the only Asian American Cabinet secretary in the administration, and it would be deeply meaningful for her nomination to move forward during AANHPI Heritage Month this month. Su’s lived experience as a woman of color and the daughter of immigrants has already brought important perspectives to the Department of Labor’s leadership, and her presence in the Cabinet would strengthen the administration writ large.

Her nomination has been endorsed by a range of business groups — from Small Business Majority to the LA Chamber of Commerce — and labor leaders, including the United Mine Workers, NABTU, LiUNA, and the IBEW. This is because Su has a proven track record of working across the aisle, sitting down with the business community as well as organized labor, and delivering strong results for the American economy. For example, together with former Secretary Walsh, Su led key initiatives at the department — including reinvigorating workforce training programs to equip working people and the economy as the United States has seen record levels of job growth. She also helped avert a major rail shutdown last year, keeping business and labor at the table to reach an agreement that Congress approved.

Su is a tested and experienced leader who has been committed to implementing and strengthening workplace protections and improving economic opportunities for all. Under her leadership, the Department of Labor will continue to build a stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive economy.

As she said during the White House ceremony in March: “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, we stand with you, and we will fight for you.”

The civil rights community urges the Senate to work swiftly to confirm Julie Su to lead the Department of Labor. There is no one more prepared to move into this role and lead the department as it undertakes its critical mission to protect working people.