President Biden has nominated Julie Su, the current deputy labor secretary, to replace Martin J. Walsh as Labor Secretary. Ms. Su has played an integral role in the Department of Labor during an administration that has shown significant support for workers and organized labor. She has been involved in a variety of regulatory, enforcement, and legislative actions aimed at improving conditions for workers, including a rule that would classify more workers as employees, allowing them access to minimum wage and unemployment insurance.
Ms. Su has garnered widespread support from labor unions for her efforts and is expected to continue promoting labor organizing initiatives. She will likely focus on legislation such as the PRO Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize, and promoting the importance of workers in service professions such as childcare and home care.
If confirmed, Ms. Su will face some limitations in advancing a new regulatory agenda. As deputy labor secretary, she helped oversee the department’s push for rules designed to protect workers from Covid-19, and regulations aimed at classifying gig economy workers as employees, and raising wages on federally funded construction projects. The latter two regulations are yet to be finalized.
Ms. Su’s nomination is expected to face opposition from Republicans, who have criticized her for overseeing regulations they consider anti-worker. However, few high-profile regulatory items remain, with the most prominent being a move to raise the cutoff below which most salaried workers are automatically eligible for overtime pay. The Biden administration is expected to propose raising the cutoff substantially, setting up a potential challenge from the business community.
Ms. Su has a history of championing workers’ rights and has served as the head of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency before joining the Biden administration in 2021. She helped establish rules protecting workers from Covid-19 hazards and has been praised for her innovative approach to regulation, reorienting the agency to rely on worker complaints as the basis for investigations. Ms. Su also gained attention for her work on behalf of Thai seamstresses who had been forced to work in a Southern California sweatshop for below the minimum wage.
If confirmed, Ms. Su’s appointment will occur at a time of rising interest in labor organizing. The Labor Secretary does not have a formal role in promoting unionization; however, the Biden administration has shown a significant interest in supporting labor rights and initiatives to benefit workers. Ms. Su is expected to continue pushing for legislation that benefits workers and promoting the importance of labor organizing.