President Joe Biden said Tuesday he would nominate Julie Su to succeed Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who was closely involved in negotiations with rail and West Coast ports' workers over the past two years.
Su has been the department’s deputy secretary since July 2021, and was the former head of California’s labor department.
“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 White House statement.
The nomination follows Feb. 7 news that the Labor Secretary Marty Walsh would step down to head the NHL Players’ Association. Walsh helped hammer out a tentative deal between railroads and unions last year, which was used as the basis for an ultimate contract.
Walsh has also been involved with ongoing talks between West Coast port employers and thousands of dockworkers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, becoming the first labor secretary to meet with port workers since 1934.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said earlier this month that Walsh’s departure is unlikely to throw a wrench into negotiations with dockworkers, which have remained ongoing since last May.
“I think we're on really firm footing,” he said. “The Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su was formerly the California Labor Secretary. And in that case, she knows both sides here in our labor negotiations very well.”
As deputy secretary, Su’s focus has been both wage theft and union relations. The White House press release noted that she helped prevent a U.S. rail shutdown, and has worked to create better work environments for manufacturing, healthcare and tech talent.
In California, she increased the state’s minimum wage, protected survivors of human trafficking and reinforced workplace safety standards, the White House said. Su also worked as a civil rights attorney for almost two decades.
If confirmed by the Senate, Su will be Biden’s first Asian American cabinet member.