President Biden on Tuesday nominated Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su to be his next secretary of Labor, potentially making her the first Asian American member of his Cabinet.
Su would replace Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who left the administration to lead the National Hockey League Players’ Association. He was the first Cabinet secretary in the line of succession to leave his post since the start of the Biden administration.
Su, the former California labor secretary, was confirmed by the Senate to serve as deputy secretary of Labor in a vote along party lines in July, 2021. In this Congress, Su faces a 51-49 Democratic-led Senate, though Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) is receiving treatment for depression at Walter Reed Medical Center for what his office said would be the next few weeks.
The Biden administration is the first in more than 20 years not to have an Asian American Cabinet secretary, and Biden was under pressure to name Su to the post since the news emerged about Walsh’s resignation.
Major unions, like the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association, came out with endorsements for Su within the last few weeks. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus also endorsed her, as well as the Asian American Action Fund.
“Julie has spent her life fighting to make sure that everyone has a fair shot, that no community is overlooked, and that no worker is left behind,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday announcing Su’s nomination.
“Over several decades, Julie has led the largest state labor department in the nation, cracked down on wage theft, fought to protect trafficked workers, increased the minimum wage, created good-paying, high-quality jobs, and established and enforced workplace safety standard,” he added.
Su’s name was floated at the start of the administration for the top Labor post before Biden named Walsh. When news of Walsh’s departure broke, another name floated for Labor secretary was former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who lost a reelection race in November. Ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pressed Biden to give Maloney a Cabinet slot.
On Tuesday, Biden touted Su as a “critical partner” to Walsh and said she helped with negotiations between railroad operators and union workers to avoid a strike that officials said would have crippled the U.S. supply chain.
He called on the Senate to nominate her quickly “so that we can finish the job for America’s workers.”
Before serving as California’s labor secretary, Su served as the state’s labor commissioner and spent 17 years as a civil rights attorney.
Brett Samuels contributed.
Updated at 1:38 p.m.