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Biden nominates Julie Su as next labor secretary

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Biden administration moves to crack down on migrant child labor 04:46

Washington — President Biden is nominating Julie Su, the current deputy and a former California official, as his next labor secretary, replacing the departing incumbent, former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Su, a civil rights attorney and former head of California's labor department, was central to negotiations between labor and freight rail companies late last year, working to avert an economically debilitating strike. She also has worked to broaden worker training programs and crack down on wage theft. If confirmed by the Senate, Su would also be the first Asian-American in the Biden administration to serve in the Cabinet at the secretary level.

In a White House ceremony Wednesday morning, the president thanked Walsh for sticking by his side, and praised Su and her qualifications. 

"Julie knows in her bones the people who get up early every morning to go to work and bust their necks just to make an honest living deserve something, someone to fight at their side," Mr. Biden said. "Give them an even shot, just a shot, so they don't get stiffed." 

The president described how Su, the daughter of immigrants from China, including a union worker mom, went on to law school. 

"Julie is the American dream," Mr. Biden said, to cheers and applause. "More importantly, I think even more importantly, she's committed to making sure that dream is within the reach of every American." 

The senior liaison at the White House for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, Erika Moritsugu, issued a statement praising the choice of Su to be labor secretary.

"She will work to build a community where no one feels invisible and help the President "finish the job" he started when he was elected," Moritsugu said. "As a daughter of immigrants from China, Julie represents the American Dream and its promises. May she inspire our sisters and daughters to realize their fullest potential and give back to the community and contribute to the success of our great nation."

Su was considered to lead the department when Mr. Biden won the White House but instead became the department's deputy. Walsh announced his intention to leave the administration earlier this month to lead the National Hockey League Players' Association. Su will serve as the acting secretary until the Senate acts on her nomination.

White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton did not directly answer whether the White House is concerned that Sen. John Fetterman's ongoing absence will hold up Su's confirmation. Fetterman is being treated for depression. Dalton reiterated the president and first lady support Fetterman's decision to seek help.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate "will work quickly to consider her nomination." 

Julie Su speaks during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on March 16, 2021, in Washington.
Julie Su speaks during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on March 16, 2021, in Washington. Alex Brandon / AP

Mr. Biden had been under pressure from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and other Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocates to select Su to head the department. This administration was the first in more than two decades to not have a Cabinet secretary of AAPI descent, despite its regular declarations that it was the most diverse in history. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai are of AAPI descent but don't lead a Cabinet department.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat of Hawaii, said she was "delighted" by the selection.

"I've been supporting Julie for that position since before since the very beginning," she told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I was very much supporting her, and it looks like it's going to happen, so I'm delighted."

Su, if confirmed, would also expand the majority of women serving in the president's Cabinet. She was confirmed by the Senate to her current role in 2021 by a 50–47 vote.

Alan He contributed reporting.

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