Chinese American attorney Julie Su was confirmed as Deputy Labor Secretary by the Senate on Tuesday.
Su, who was confirmed along party lines, is the first Asian American woman to earn the job. She formerly served as secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, where she oversaw the state’s workforce initiatives and business regulations.
During her confirmation hearing, Republicans voiced hesitation about her California roots, implying that its pro-labor reputation fits her as well. According to Bloomberg Law, she is considered a strong advocate for workers’ rights.
But Democrats took that as a strength. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington praised Su’s dedication to justice for laborers, according to Pensions & Investments.
“It is clear that workers need a deputy secretary of labor who is committed to building back a stronger, fairer economy, someone who will work diligently to make sure workers have a fairer and just workplace, a livable wage, a secure retirement, safe working conditions, access to accommodations and are treated with dignity and respect,” Murray said. “Which is why I’m so glad to support Julie Su’s nomination.”
Prior to working for the California government, Su engaged in civil and workers’ rights activism at the AAPI civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice. In a statement, the group congratulated Su and commemorated her 15-plus years of service for its Los Angeles chapter.
Advancing Justice particularly highlighted her work on Bureerong v. Uvawas, a 1996 case in which Su won settlements and labor law reform for 102 Thai garment workers who were being exploited in sweatshops.
“Julie’s leadership expanded workers’ rights in the state of California and nationally,” Advancing Justice wrote.
The organization also praised President Biden for diversifying the Department of Labor with AAPI representation. Her voice, it said, will be another counter against anti-Asian racism.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked Su for her service to the state in a statement. Su, he said, will represent California well in her pursuit of equity and social justice.
“Julie has been fighting for workers’ rights from California for nearly three decades,” Newsom said. “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.”
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