February 17, 2023

Julie Su Will Expand the Efforts of President Biden and Outgoing Secretary Walsh

Washington, D.C. – Jobs With Justice released the statement below in support of Julie Su’s nomination for Labor Secretary following news that Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will leave his cabinet position next month. 

Statement from Erica Smiley, Executive Director of Jobs With Justice: 

“Jobs With Justice congratulates Secretary Walsh on more than two years of stewardship of the Department of Labor, during a time when worker power and organizing came into focus for many as a driving force in American politics. As corporate profits and executive pay see some of their highest historical peaks, many workers across America struggle to provide for themselves and their families.

“Secretary Walsh realized that the Labor Department plays a crucial role in breaking this dynamic by empowering workers and lowering barriers to worker organizing; we are thankful to have had an ally atop the Department of Labor.

“We cannot lose momentum in this fight. Wage stagnation has left families behind as corporate profits boom. President Biden must swiftly nominate a new Secretary with a proven track record who is committed to continuing and expanding the Department of Labor’s role in expanding collective bargaining, working with Congress to pass the PRO Act, and ensuring funds from the Inflation Reduction Act translate directly into well-paying jobs with good working conditions for American workers. 

“Jobs With Justice stands with our allies in the labor movement, including the National Education Association, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and SEIU, in strongly supporting current Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su for this cabinet vacancy. 

“As workers around the country continue to organize and grow their power, they must have a partner in the administration willing to go to bat for them, as Secretary Walsh admirably did. President Biden must act swiftly to ensure the Department of Labor can continue working to help everyday Americans grow their power in their workplaces.”

Highlights from Labor Secretary Walsh’s tenure include:

  • As vice chair of Vice President Kamala Harris’ Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, Walsh ensured the group issued dozens of recommendations on actions the administration should take to support collective bargaining. (White House statement, 2/7/22)
  • Created the Worker Organizing Resource and Knowledge (WORK) Center, a clearinghouse website devoted to assisting workers exercise their right to organize into a union.
  • Created the Good Jobs Initiative to challenge companies to create quality jobs and increase equity..

As Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor and California Labor Secretary, Julie Su has a proven track record of using labor standards enforcement to tackle abusive working conditions in the short run and build worker power in the long run:

  • Su announced a plan to use federal workforce development money to ensure that the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the American Rescue Plan, and other federal laws lead to jobs that give more power to workers through “sector-based labor-management partnerships” and “integrate job quality and equity requirements in programs and grants.” (Forbes 10/27/22)
  • Su helped host the Department of Labor’s Good Jobs Summit, kicking off the Good Jobs Initiative and working with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to ensure that trucking jobs are improved as part of the Good Jobs Initiative.

Deputy Secretary Su has a proven track record of using labor standards enforcement to both tackle abusive working conditions in the short run and build worker power in the long run, including in her previous role as California Labor Secretary.

  • Su led the California Future of Work Commission, which created a blueprint for lifting up workers that has the goal of functionally ending poverty in California within a decade. (The Nation, 3/9/21)
  • Su partnered with worker advocates to target limited state enforcement resources on particular low-road sectors and localities, forcing low-road CEOs to pay fair wages to their workers and create safe working conditions. Su also helped foster worker organizing by putting community organizations in direct relationships with workers subjected to unfair or illegal treatment. (Paper written for Harvard Law School symposium, November 2017)
  • National Education Association president Becky Pringle, “Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su is an eminently qualified candidate for Secretary of Labor, and her life story is representative of many American families—underscoring America as a nation of immigrants. I, and millions of NEA members, enthusiastically support her nomination!”  [Twitter 2/13/23]
  • SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said, “Julie Su has been a highly effective advocate for workers all across the economy—she is made for this moment. She has consistently backed workers demanding a voice on the job and the right to join unions. She understands the urgency of empowering workers to improve their lives in this rapidly changing economy. … Nominating Julie Su as our next Secretary of Labor would be an important step towards President Biden’s goal of building an inclusive economy that works for all of us, not just big corporations” [SEIU press release, 2/17/23]
  • Ai-jen Poo, President of the National Domestic Workers Alliance said, “NDWA stands with other worker organizations in supporting Deputy Secretary Julie Su to be the next U.S. Secretary of Labor. She has an impeccable track record of advocating for all workers across our economy. We look forward to working together with DOL under her leadership to protect and transform care and all other jobs into good jobs in order for every worker to achieve economic security and opportunity.”  [NDWA press release, 2/16/23]

President Biden promised to be the best president for labor the United States has ever seen. (NBC News, 1/20/22). As he mentioned in the 2023 State of the Union, President Biden envisions fulfilling this promise by supporting the PRO Act, a bill that would remove some of the barriers courts have put in place to worker organizing and by creating new jobs through laws Congress has passed, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Separately, President Biden also mentioned his intent to protect democracy in the United States.

However, these are not independent goals, and the Department of Labor plays a central role in weaving these issues together, as the first secretary of the modern version of the Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, knew well. 

Frances Perkins, for whom the Department of Labor’s headquarters building is named, also served at a time of crisis and a time with strong legal barriers to worker organizing. As one of the primary architects of the New Deal. [Colliers, 8/5/1944, NPR., 4/16/09] as a system that protected workers from abuses but also empowered workers to participate in democratic systems for our economy. For instance, Perkins originally envisioned that fair wages would be created democratically by wage boards made up of workers, industry representatives, and the government [Department of Labor blog, 1/2016].

The Labor Secretary today must bring the same spirit of democracy to our economy that France Perkins brought. In order for the money from these well-intentioned laws President Biden mentioned in the State of the Union to benefit workers rather than simply line CEO pockets, the administration must work to ensure that the money–created by the labor of U.S. workers–creates good jobs and leads to more worker empowerment.


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