Biden will nominate Julie Suh as the next US Secretary of Labor
WASHINGTON (AP) – The president Joe Biden is nominating Julie Suh, a current deputy and former California official, as its next labor secretary, replacing outgoing former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
Suh, a civil rights attorney and former California Department of Labor chief, was at the center of negotiations between labor and freight railroad companies late last year, working to prevent economic debilitating strike. She also worked to expand employee training programs and combat wage theft. If confirmed by the Senate, Suh would also become the first Asian-American in the Biden administration to serve in the cabinet at the secretary level.
Biden called her a “champion of workers” in a statement Tuesday.
“Julie is a proven and experienced leader who will continue to build a stronger, more sustainable and more inclusive economy that provides Americans with a fair return for their work and an equal chance for advancement,” he said. “She helped prevent national rail closures, improved access to good jobs without discrimination through my Good Jobs initiative and ensures that the jobs we create in key sectors such as semiconductors, broadband and healthcare pay well , stable and affordable. jobs for all.”
Suh was considered the department’s chief when Biden won the White House, but instead became the department’s deputy. Walsh announced his intention leave the administration earlier this month to lead the National Hockey League Players Association. Suh will serve as secretary until the Senate decides on her nomination.
Biden was under pressure from the Asian Pacific American Congressional Caucus and other Asian American and Pacific Islander advocates to select Su to head the department. This administration was the first in more than two decades to not have a Cabinet Secretary of AAPI descent, despite regular claims that it was the most diverse in history. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Trade Representative Catherine Tye are AAPI, but do not lead a cabinet department.
Suu, if confirmed, would also expand the majority of women serving in the president’s cabinet. The Senate confirmed her to her current position in 2021 by a vote of 50-47.
Suh’s nomination drew quick support from Democrats on Capitol Hill, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying she would be “phenomenal” in the role.
“The president could not have chosen a better candidate,” he told reporters. “I’m very excited for her and we’re going to review her candidacy very, very soon.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who will chair Suh’s confirmation hearing as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, praised the choice. Sanders called for consideration by Sarah Nelson, president of the flight attendant union, but made it clear that Suh has strong support.
“I’m sure Julie Suh will be an excellent Secretary of Labor,” he tweeted. “I look forward to working with her to protect workers’ rights and build the union movement in this country.”
But Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, who opposed Su when she was tapped to be deputy secretary, called her work overseeing the department “disturbing” and “anti-labor.”
The committee should “have a full and thorough hearing process,” Cassidy said.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who chairs the Asian Pacific American Caucus in Congress, said she was “delighted” by the choice, thanking Biden in a tweet for “nominating your first AAPI Cabinet Secretary!”
“Definitely better late than never,” Chu said in a brief interview, citing CAPAC’s endorsement of Suh two years ago in the top job in Labor and praising Suh’s credentials as a leader and enforcer of labor laws, including minimum wages and standards labor protection. She said the Republican Party’s criticism of Suh had been fully vetted two years ago and that the upcoming confirmation process would show their accusations were “baseless.”
Choo noted that Biden said he would name a cabinet that would be like America, and “he has followed through on that promise.”
Suh’s nomination also comes at a pivotal time for unions, which have faced declining membership for decades. Unions gained some momentum as workers at large employers like Amazon and Starbucks sought to unionize. But Biden — an avowed union president — had to work with Congress to impose a contract on railroad workers last year to avoid a possible strike.
The Ministry of Labor reported that last year only 10.1% of workers were union members. That number has nearly halved since 1983 and could fall further as younger workers are less likely to join unions.
“There is no one more dedicated and skilled in defending the fundamental rights of workers than Julie Suh,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “This is her life’s work.”
Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Mary Claire Jalonik and Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.