Biden’s Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor. and Pensions (HELP) Committee tomorrow, April 20th, at 10am EDT for a confirmation hearing to become U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Click here to watch the hearing live.
Here are some important questions for Biden’s nominee:
Do you believe that the Department of Labor should act neutrally, or should it pick winners and losers?
Su previously remarked, “As Labor Commissioner [of California], I have said repeatedly that we are not a neutral agency.” She rejects “the assumption that the government is not supposed to take sides.” Furthermore, President Biden and Julie Su herself have both asserted that their goal is to be the “most pro-union administration in American history.” Congress should ask whether Su plans to bring an attitude of partiality to the U.S. Department of Labor if she is allowed to become Secretary.
Why do you think voters in your own home state rejected your radical ABC test?
As head labor official in California, Julie Su was a key architect behind the infamous Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), which forced independent contractors to reclassify as W-2 employees based on a vague three-factor “ABC” test. AB 5 is deeply unpopular, especially among those it impacts most directly; nine-in-10 freelancers in California opposed the law. Su’s AB 5 was so unpopular that Californians in 2020 voted by a 17-point margin in favor of sweeping exemptions for app-based rideshare and delivery drivers, allowing them to remain as independent contractors. In surveys, three-quarters of these independent drivers in California said they support the exemptions. Congress should ask why Julie Su supported this harmful proposal that her own constituents adamantly opposed.
Do you intend to push forward with Joe Biden’s support for the PRO Act and the ABC test, or does your opinion differ from the President today?
The “Protecting the Right to Organize” (PRO) Act supported by President Biden is a grab-bag of every bad idea that union bosses desire: It would end secret ballot elections at many workplaces, make union intimidation easier, streamline union election timelines, and remove workers’ choice by overturning all state-level Right to Work laws. It would also codify the harmful ABC test which was enforced in Su’s AB 5. As President Biden’s chief DOL official, Julie Su will be tasked with supporting the president’s labor agenda. Congress should ask whether Julie Su intends to use DOL to support radical proposals like those included in the PRO Act.
As Deputy Secretary of Labor, which is intended to act as a COO of the department, what has your personal role been in recent DOL rulemaking such as the proposal to reclassify independent contractors?
There is wide speculation that Julie Su has taken a more active policy role during her time as Deputy Secretary, rather than fulfilling the traditional “Chief Operating Officer” role, resulting in more radical department policy. This concern was also expressed by members of Congress prior to her confirmation as Deputy Secretary. Congress should ask how active of a role she played in advancing controversial DOL policies such as the proposed rulemaking on independent contracting, which mimics parts of her own California program.
To what extent do you believe the Department of Labor is beholden to the will of Congress for policymaking?
After it became clear that the American people and their representatives in Congress do not support radical legislation like the PRO Act, the Department of Labor under Deputy Secretary Su has attempted to force some of the bill’s provisions through by executive fiat, such as independent contracting regulations and a broadened joint employer standard. Stakeholders have also raised concerns over Su’s claim that regulators “can’t fine people into compliance” and instead should “look at entire industry structures” to “change the incentive structures by which people operate.” Congress should inquire about how Su sees the role of the Department of Labor: an enforcer of congressionally approved laws or a legislative body itself.
Do you believe you failed in your oversight of California’s unemployment insurance program?
As the head of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Su oversaw widespread failures in the state’s unemployment insurance system. Under her watch, California distributed more than $11 billion in fraudulent claims, totaling 10 percent of all benefits paid out by the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Estimates show that a further $19 billion in claims may have been improperly distributed. Congress should ask whether Julie Su takes personal responsibility for these failures, and why she should now be trusted to run a department that oversees operations in all fifty states.
Do you still support the “FAST Recovery Act,” which has been largely rejected by California’s voters?
Julie Su has appeared at events in support of A.B. 257, California’s “FAST Recovery Act,” telling organizers, “The Department of Labor stands with you. The Biden-Harris administration stands with you.” The bill would grant California’s government vast new power to regulate wages and company policies at franchised restaurants. Californian voters made clear their opposition to the radical overhaul last year, with over one million voters signing a petition proposing a ballot referendum which could overturn the new law. Members of the Senate HELP Committee represent states where the franchise model contributes more than 250,000 establishments, 2.7 million employees, and $274 billion in financial output. Congress should ask Julie Su whether she still agrees with this radical regulation of the franchising sector.
How would a Julie Su-led department differ from DOL as led by Secretary Marty Walsh?
Some Democrat Party members in Congress, such as Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), have made clear that they want a Secretary who is similar to Marty Walsh and suggested that having Walsh at the top of the department is part of why they supported Su’s original confirmation on a thin party-line vote. While Walsh was still pro-union, Julie Su takes a much more radical, far-left stance on labor issues. Congress should find out how she intends to change the direction of the department––or whether she was already steering the ship behind the scenes.
What experience do you have in negotiating major labor disputes?
American supply chains are once again imperiled by upcoming labor disputes, including negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at our nation’s ports, as well as an expiring collective bargaining agreement between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Secretary Walsh came into office already having direct experience in labor negotiations. Julie Su, on the other hand, has been an academic and a bureaucrat for most of her career, with little to no direct experience in labor negotiations. Congress should ask how she would approach these major negotiations in the coming year to ensure that the Biden administration’s supply chain crises are not further multiplied.
Do you acknowledge that by reclassifying swaths of independent contractors, you would be raising the tax burden on millions of Americans making under $400k a year?
A study commissioned by Americans for Tax Reform and the Tholos Foundation last year found that if Su’s ABC test were applied on a nationwide basis, 56 percent of the independent contractors who would be forced into W-2 employment status would pay higher taxes. Ninety-six percent of those workers who will have a higher tax burden––about 7.5 million workers––make less than $400,000 per year, once again violating Biden’s pledge to not raise taxes on anyone earning less than that amount. Congress should ask why she believes so many middle-class Americans should pay more taxes.
See also: ATR’s breakdown of how many franchises are at risk in each Senate HELP Committee member’s state.