Controversial U.S. Department of Labor Secretary nominee Julie Su drew praise and condemnation during her first day of confirmation hearings in front of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on April 20.
She was chosen by President Joe Biden to replace Marty Walsh, who stepped down to become the Executive Director of the National Hockey League’s Players Association.
Su, who was confirmed by a vote of 50-47 to become Deputy Labor Secretary in 2021, was introduced by Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA). In his opening remarks, Padilla commended Su for helping to “add a record 12.6 million jobs to the American economy since President Biden took office.”
Padilla continued by saying that Su had a commitment to “fundamentally strengthen American labor in the years ahead.”
Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the ranking Republican on the committee, however, painted Su as a serious threat to workers who wish to remain as independent contractors. The independent trucker has been at the core of American trucking for several decades.
“As secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Ms. Su was the chief enforcer of AB5—a controversial law that dismantles the gig economy such as Uber, DoorDash, and Lyft, and removes the flexibility of individuals to work as independent contractors,” said Cassidy.
“Even in California, AB5 is unpopular. The governor and state legislature had to pass over 100 exemptions after it was implemented. In fact, the statutory exemptions are longer than the text of AB5 itself,” said Cassidy.
He continued his criticism by saying, “As an acting and deputy secretary of Labor, Ms. Su is overseeing the Biden administration’s push to eliminate independent contracting via federal executive rulemaking, to the detriment of workers.”
“If finalized, the new regulation would strip 21 million individuals of their ability to be independent contractors and to enjoy the flexibility this provides. A law rejected in California is not a policy that we should spread across the nation,” added Cassidy.
In response, Su noted she was only acting under existing California law in implementing AB5 and said she would abide by the direction of the U.S. Congress in enforcing federal laws.
Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supported Su’s nomination, saying, “The debate over Ms. Su really has nothing to do with her qualifications. This debate, really, has everything to do with the fact that Julie Su is a champion of the working class of this country who will stand up against the forces of corporate greed.”
If Su’s nomination makes it out of the committee, it is unclear whether she would get a majority of Senate votes. Moderate Democrats such as Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) are currently on the fence.