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A SoCal Push For Former State Labor Commissioner Julie Su To Be The Next US Labor Secretary 

A close-up shot of Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su who is wearing a bright blue blazer. A man is standing behind her out-of-focus in an orange t-shirt and bright pink hat.
Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su's name is being floated as a replacement for outgoing Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
(Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for One Fair Wage
Getty Images North America)
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Groups representing unions and Asian Americans are among those pressing President Biden to tap Julie Su as the next Secretary of Labor, with some of the most ardent calls coming from Southern California.

Su, who currently serves as the deputy labor secretary to departing Secretary Marty Walsh, used to represent workers in the region as the litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Southern California.

She was the lead lawyer in the 1995 landmark El Monte Thai garment slavery case that saw dozens of undocumented workers recover lost wages and win the right to stay in the U.S.

In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Su as California’s labor commissioner. Her tenure was marked by efforts to fight wage theft and promote career advancement for immigrants, women and people of color, said Kent Wong of the UCLA Labor Center.

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“She has paid particular attention to the concerns of workforce development and the importance of providing job opportunities to underserved communities,” said Wong, who is part of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the California Federation of Teachers, both of which are backing a Su nomination.

Su’s name is being floated along with former New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who has the support of Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would support either one of two people: Sara Nelson, the head of the largest flight attendants’ union, or former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

Any Su nomination would face the same opposition she encountered when she was being considered for the top labor post before President Biden selected Walsh, then Boston’s mayor and a former union official.

Business interests and Republicans zeroed in on the massive fraud that wracked California’s unemployment system during the pandemic. Su oversaw the Employment Development Department as secretary of the state’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

With Walsh reportedly on the cusp of leaving the job to lead the National Hockey League Players’ Association, Su’s supporters are eager that she get another shot. They also point out no Asian American is serving as a cabinet secretary — the first time this has happened in any administration of the last 20 years.

“We think this is a very serious concern, especially given the national rise in anti-Asian hate and violence,” Wong said.

Groups mobilizing in support of Su include the Asian American Action Fund; APIAVote; the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus; the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans; the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum; the National Education Association and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations.

Have a question about Southern California's Asian American communities?
Josie Huang reports on the intersection of being Asian and American and the impact of those growing communities in Southern California.

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