President Joe Biden‘s nomination of Julie Su to replace Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is facing strong opposition in the Senate, as the former deputy labor secretary is coming under scrutiny for her previous support of the controversial California Assembly Bill 5.
The bill, which was signed into law four years ago by California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, has sparked criticism from owner–operator truckers and other independent contractors for its restrictions on freelance work. Su, who led the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency at the time, has vowed to enforce the law, saying in an interview with CalMatters, “We will be doing investigations and audits so that those who want to comply with the need to reclassify can do so and those who don’t will understand that’s not the kind of economy we want in California. So we can issue citations and demand both wages and taxes and other kinds of penalties.”
Su‘s support of the bill has sparked criticism from groups like Americans for Tax Reform, who have accused her of having an “extensive record of anti–freelancer, anti–independent contractor views and is more than willing to use government power to impose her radical agenda on American workers.”
The scrutiny has been compounded by Su‘s involvement in the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, which oversaw the state‘s Employment Development Department. It was revealed that at least one–tenth of the $114 billion in pandemic relief claims handled by the agency involved fraudulent activity, raising questions about Su‘s ability to effectively manage the Labor Department.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D–WV), who is up for re–election in a heavily Republican state, has reportedly expressed hesitancy in confirming Su, a decision that could sink the nomination. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I–AZ) and Sen. Jon Tester (D–MT) could also oppose Su as they create distance from the Biden administration amid their potentially difficult campaigns next year.
As Su faces her Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, the future of her nomination hangs in the balance. Opponents of the California Assembly Bill 5 argue that the restrictive law deprives workers of their federal labor protections, including their right to be paid their full, legally earned wages. It remains to be seen whether Su‘s past support of the bill will be enough to prevent her from securing the job as Labor Secretary.