April 24, 2023

Julie Su

Biden Labor Secretary nominee Julie Su defended her record during [last] Thursday’s confirmation hearing… It’s unclear whether Su, who spent the last two years as deputy Labor secretary and previously led California’s labor department, has the votes to be confirmed. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) haven’t said how they’d vote. Business interests concerned about Su’s pro-labor stances are running ads in those senators’ home states pressuring them to vote against her nomination.” The Hill

During Su’s tenure, California passed a bill reclassifying many gig workers as employees rather than independent contractors. Separately, last October the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule regarding independent contractors that would replace a rule issued by the previous administration, and noted that replicating California’s law would only be possible “if the Supreme Court revisits its precedent or if Congress passes legislation.” Investopedia, Department of Labor

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports Su, arguing that she is a champion for workers and that criticism of her is misguided.

“[Su championed] California’s Assembly Bill 5, a tough 2019 law that cracked down on the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The legislation imposed what’s called an ‘ABC test’ to determine whether someone can legitimately be excluded from employment benefits…

“The national business community is fervently opposed to anything like A.B. 5 being passed by Congress because it wants to maintain its current unconscionable latitude in deciding whether any given worker will receive minimum wage, Social Security, and other protections that employers are required to furnish employees…

“[Su is unlikely] to apply the ABC test at the federal level, as was made clear in October when the Labor Department issued a proposed regulation. That proposed regulation’s disavowal of the ABC test didn’t stop 11 Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, from suggesting in an April 6 letter of their own to Sanders that Su was plotting to insert it into the final version of the rule.”

Timothy Noah, New Republic

“Romney complained that Su has met frequently with unions, but only recently with business. This means, he complained, she is not ‘an unbiased, neutral arbiter.’… The ‘unbiased, neutral arbiter’ standard is an interesting one. It is not a demand that is normally made of other Cabinet secretaries. The Commerce secretary is understood as a representative of business. The Treasury secretary is supposed to have at least the respect of Wall Street. They are not generally pressed to demonstrate a record of cooperation with labor…

“And if this expectation of neutrality applies to just the Labor secretary, should it apply to all of them, or just Democratic ones? Because Republican Labor secretaries generally adopt uncompromising pro-management positions. Donald Trump’s last Labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, came from a corporate law firm, where he bitterly fought unions over workplace-safety protections. The AFL-CIO called him a ‘lifelong union-buster’ who ‘has yet to find a worker protection he supports or a corporate loophole he opposes.’”

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

Regarding fraud in California during her tenure, Sen. Bernie Sanders noted “that ‘the unemployment insurance fraud rate was 15.4% in Tennessee, 15.3% in Arizona, 14.3% in South Carolina, and over 14% in Massachusetts.’…

“‘All of those states had Republican governors and Republican labor secretaries and all of those states experienced higher unemployment insurance fraud rates than California,’ Sanders said. ‘The truth is that the Trump administration failed to provide adequate guidance and resources to states on how to administer these emergency unemployment benefits and, as a result, fraud went up.’”

Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

From the Right

The right is critical of Su, arguing that she supports policies that would harm businesses and part-time contract employees.

The right is critical of Su, arguing that she supports policies that would harm businesses and part-time contract employees.

“Ms. Su has a record of putting union interests above those of individual workers or flexible business models that workers like but unions oppose. As labor secretary in California, she drove implementation of the state’s AB5 law, which reclassified independent contractors as employees. The law was aimed at Uber drivers and other gig workers, but it ended up smacking workers seeking flexible hours in multiple industries—comedy performers, personal fitness trainers, midwives, transcriptionists, hairdressers, music-lesson providers…

“The ensuing labor and economic harm caused the state to exempt numerous professions from the law, while voters in 2020 [overwhelmingly] passed an initiative exempting many gig workers from the statute. Ms. Su’s Labor department is nonetheless taking AB5 national with a proposed regulation that replicates California’s mess.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Su’s magnum opus, AB-5, effectively outlaws part-time contract work in many fields in California. It basically says ‘full time or nothing at all’ to a lot of workers who would rather not be 40-hour-a-week wage slaves… Flexible part-time jobs are exactly what parents need, and so Su’s regulatory agenda harms working families and makes many adults decide that family is out of reach… Half of American mothers said their preferred child care arrangement is that both parents work flexible hours and share child care (37%), or one parent stays home part time (12%).”

Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

“One of the worst state-level benefits frauds in American history occurred under her watch, with an estimated $32.6 billion in pandemic assistance being paid to scammers… [A local news station] uncovered single addresses that received dozens of checks made out to dozens of different people. Payments were made to ‘Minnie Mouse’ and ‘Poopy Britches.’…

“The agency did not crosscheck recipients against prison records, and thousands of inmates, including convicted murderers, fraudulently took unemployment benefits. It sent out tax forms to people who never applied for benefits, forcing them to unravel the problems that identity thieves created. In a failed effort to constrain the fraud, the agency froze benefits for thousands of legitimate disability recipients, leaving them in a bureaucratic quagmire while scammers continued to steal billions…

“The U.S. Department of Labor has its own fraud problems, with its inspector general telling Congress that at least $191 billion in payments were improper during the pandemic. Biden has said in the past that he wants to clean up pandemic fraud, but putting Su in charge of the federal labor department after her tenure at California’s labor department sends the opposite message.”
The Editors, National Review

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