Michael Hiltzik: Julie Su would be a perfect Labor secretary. That’s why Big Business hates her | Business News
Most politically aware Americans are probably familiar with the function of confirmation hearings in a Senate with a razor-thin Democratic majority: It’s where qualified nominations go to die.
That may be the course followed by President Biden’s nomination of Julie Su as secretary of Labor, a job she has been filling on an interim and acting basis since the departure of former secretary Marty Walsh in February.
The nomination is scheduled for a vote Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where its fate is unsure. The committee held a hearing on her nomination on April 20.
By any measure, Su, 54, the Stanford- and Harvard-educated daughter of Chinese immigrants, is spectacularly qualified for the permanent position. She has been a stalwart and exceptionally effective advocate for worker rights throughout her professional career.
In 1994, freshly out of law school, Su led the first of 72 Thai garment workers to freedom after their rescue from an El Monte sweatshop and subsequent detention by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
As The Los Angeles Times reported then, she was “foremost among lawyers who had negotiated the workers’ release on bond and found housing and jobs for them.” She then served as the lead attorney in their successful battle to obtain a $4-million settlement from manufacturers and retailers for their exploitation.
The lawsuit was “path-breaking [for] going after not only the sweatshop owners and contractors who were on the front lines of exploitation, but demanding accountability from retailers and wholesalers who were involved in the production chain,” Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, told my colleague Melanie Mason.
The novel legal strategy, Wong said, led to a state law that made retailers and garment manufacturers legally liable if workers at their contractors’ facilities did not receive minimum wage and overtime pay.
After her 2011 appointment by Gov. Jerry Brown as California labor commissioner, Su made cracking down on wage theft a priority.
Her first notable case as labor commissioner came in October and November 2011 when surveillance of Inland Empire distribution warehouses and off-site worker interviews resulted in a $1-million fine for payroll irregularities against a national logistics and trucking company.
swipe to next page
©2023 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.