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Why you should be watching Secretary of Labor nominee Julie Su

Here’s why employees and employers alike should be paying attention to the Secretary of Labor nominee Julie Su.

Julie Su, nominee for the Secretary of the Department of Labor, stands at a podium with a US flag behind her.

Julie Su–the head of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency and Deputy Labor Secretary, albeit by a narrow margin–is well on her way to becoming the Secretary of the Department of Labor thanks to a nomination by President Biden. This potentially controversial candidate could serve as an indicator for the direction of the economy in the future.

Su’s record includes a variety of accomplishments ranging from advocating for trafficked workers–involving a swath of time spent as an attorney and fighting against wage theft–to support for AB-5, California’s divisive labor law that requires many formerly independent contractors working in the state to be reclassified as non-exempt employees.

While AB-5 had plenty of support and seemed, at first glance, to involve pro-worker sentiment, some of the stipulations–specifically those limiting the number of pieces freelance writers could submit per publication in a year, stifling musical performance ceilings, and generally affecting operator-owned truck services–ruffled gig workers’ feathers.

Independent Institute also mentioned Su’s involvement with California’s COVID unemployment reimbursement program, claiming that she was directly responsible for misallocation–and subsequent fraudulent use–of those funds, many of which ended up in the wrong hands.

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Whatever the case, it seems that a certain lack of public support for Su is at odds with the Biden administration’s vote of confidence, and the fact that she advocated for AB-5 raises some profound concerns for how she will address her office should she be confirmed as the Secretary of Labor.

Chief among those concerns is how the market will be affected by Su’s entry. At a time of great economic duress, some may feel that bringing in someone who is clearly interested in reform that has been classified as potentially irregular–or even radical–is a fix more akin to a hand grenade than a bandaid. 

It’s worth noting that Su’s primary opposition still comes from business groups and lobbyists, such as those behind Proposition 22–the AB-5 override that allowed companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash to continue hiring independent contractors without classifying them as employees, while “labor, immigrant and women’s groups” find her appealing, according to The Guardian, which also points out that the number of business groups opposing Su is “not many”. 

Regardless of political tinge, employees and employers alike should pay attention to Su as she makes her way toward Secretary of Labor. Should she be confirmed, it is likely that the market will respond in a way that affects all involved parties–whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. 

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Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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