Su’s background would complement Walsh in framing the President’s agenda but both confirmations may face a difficult uphill battle
President Biden tapped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to head the Department of Labor (DOL). On February 11, 2021, in a bipartisan vote a key Senate panel moved forward with the nomination of Walsh. He was the former head of the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council and has union support with the endorsement from the AFL-CIO’s two largest unions. However, the ranking member of the Committee on Education and Labor, Republican Representative Virginia Foxx, said that she has “serious concerns that the DOL under Walsh will crush our economic recovery by strangling business owners with an onslaught of job-killing regulations and vindictive and overzealous oversight.” Previously, Walsh served as a Massachusetts state representative for 17 years and was the principal liaison to Massachusetts unions on labor policy issues.
According to sources provided to Bloomberg Law, President Biden has selected Julie Su to fill the role of deputy Labor secretary. It is also reported that Ms. Su has accepted the offer even though she was hoping for the top job within the DOL. Since 2019, Su has led California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Prior to that, from 2011 to 2018, she worked as California’s labor commissioner. Before working for the state of California, she worked as an attorney for Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles.
Su’s agency has faced scrutiny after billions of dollars were paid to fraudulent unemployment claimants, while others waited for delayed payments. Supporters of Ms. Su claimed that the issues facing her agency were beyond her control and that she did everything that she could do to try to fix the situation. Su reported that the department was “unprepared for the surge in unemployment claims amid the coronavirus pandemic.” Opponents of Su placed a full-page ad in the Washington, DC edition of USA Today identifying reasons not to appoint Su. However, Su has the favor among labor leaders and worker advocates after fighting for low-wage and immigrant communities.
According to Bloomberg Law, insiders who follow the Labor Department closely feel that Su’s background would complement Walsh in framing the President’s agenda, assuming that both are confirmed.
It is believed that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s nomination to be Secretary of Labor is based in large part on his ties to organized labor. He has described his position with the Building Trades Council as largely “public relations”. We expect that he will be a largely hands-off Secretary, leaving the day-to-day management of individual agencies within the department to their respective heads However, he does have the ability, under a rule finalized during the previous administration, to overrule Administrative Review Board decisions. It remains to be seen if he will exercise that authority.