Worker rights attorney Julie Su confirmed as second-in-command at US Department of Labor

Julie Su
Civil rights attorney Julie Su was recently confirmed as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.

New position: The Senate voted 50-47 to approve her as the second-in-command of the department on July 13, reported Bloomberg Law.

  • Her job duties will include overseeing efforts to “rebuild and empower” the Labor Department workers, manage the department’s budgets and execute the priorities of the Secretary of Labor.
  • She will be serving as the department’s de-facto Chief Operating Officer, according to a DOL spokesperson.
  • “Julie has been fighting for workers’ rights from California for nearly three decades. And now, as Deputy Secretary of Labor, she will help our country build a more inclusive economy that works for all Americans as we recover from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

Job History: Su previously worked as the Litigation Director in Los Angeles for Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) for over 15 years.

  • She was the leading litigator on landmark civil and workers’ rights cases.
  • Her most “notable” case was the Thai Garment Workers Case. She led the team that filed a lawsuit in support of 102 Thai garment works who were exploited and enslaved by sweatshop owners.
  • Her leadership led to the expansion of workers’ rights not only in California but throughout the nation. The case ended in over $4 million settlements from several manufacturers and private label retailers.
  • AAJC commended Biden for bringing on an AAPI representative into his administration and urged him to continue being inclusive.

How she works: Though she has a reputation for “prioritizing vulnerable workers,” Su’s appointment raises questions about how much power she will have regarding the president’s workplace policy agenda.

  • As Su is considered a “forceful and innovative enforcer of workers’ rights,” progressives hope to see her “assume an outsized role in framing actions to protect marginalized workers and promote racial and gender equity.”
  • Concerns about how she will work alongside Labor Secretary Marty Walsh have also been raised, but people believe the two could complement each other.
  • “Walsh is a politician, and apparently has a very good relationship with Biden and the White House; and Julie Su, from what I know about her, is much more a policy-type person,” said Jordan Barab, who was deputy head of the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for much of the Obama administration.

Featured Image via California Humanities

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