This May Day, the Senate Must Confirm Julie Su as the Next Secretary of Labor
May 1 is International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day.
(a.k.a. the original Labor Day, with no weird rules about when to wear white).
In the late 1880s, Chicago-based labor activist Lucy Parsons—the so-called “goddess of anarchy” and one of the people we have to thank for the eight-hour workday—helped establish May 1 as the day to celebrate workers, organized labor, and the struggle to build a more just and equitable society.
This May Day, there’s one big thing the Senate can do for workers around the country: Confirm Julie Su as the next secretary of labor.
Julie is currently the deputy secretary of labor and on February 28, 2023, President Biden nominated her to succeed Marty Walsh as the next person to lead the Department of Labor—but now, she’s waiting on the full Senate to vote on her confirmation.
There’s absolutely no reason why the Senate shouldn’t confirm her quickly. Indeed, Julie represents the very best of our country’s values—and has throughout the entirety of her life and career.
Julie’s mom came to the U.S. from China on a cargo ship because she couldn’t afford the cost of a passenger ticket. In California, her parents built a family and a community, running a small laundromat and then a pizza restaurant. Growing up steeped in this narrative of the American Dream, Julie went to law school and dedicated herself to improving the lives of others. She worked as a civil rights attorney, representing women in low-paid jobs who were subjected to abusive labor conditions.
When Julie was only 26, she led a lawsuit against abusers who kept 72 Thai workers, mostly women, captive for years in a garment sweatshop, where they were forced to work in inhumane conditions. Then, in 2001, when she was just 32 years old, Julie was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for her work furthering workers’ rights and civil rights.
Not content to stop there, Julie went on to devote her career to public service, serving as California’s labor commissioner, then as secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. In California, Julie helped combat wage theft, advance equal pay, and administer the state’s paid family and medical leave program.
In 2021, President Biden nominated Julie to be deputy secretary of labor. Working together with Secretary Walsh, Julie led key initiatives at the Department of Labor to deliver on the President’s promise of building an economy that works for working people, implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act to invest in communities across the country and make sure these new jobs are good jobs.
Confirming Julie Su as our next secretary of labor is the clear right choice. The Department of Labor plays a key role in protecting this country’s workforce and promoting women’s economic security, enforcing laws that guarantee minimum wages, overtime, family and medical leave, and break time for nursing mothers, as well as executive orders that prohibit discrimination, establish minimum labor standards, and allow contractors to earn paid sick days.
These policies help close the gender wage gap, remove barriers to women’s employment opportunities, help limit sex discrimination, raise wages, allow women to meet caregiving responsibilities, and ensure women’s health and safety so they can continue to support their families.
In short: the secretary of labor is the nation’s most senior official tasked with ensuring the well-being, rights, and employment opportunities of working people. And Julie is the best candidate for the job.