Julie Su Emerges as Popular Labor Secretary Pick

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By Ben Penn

Oct. 17 — Worker advocates are pushing for California Labor Commissioner Julie Su as their top choice for labor secretary in a Hillary Clinton administration, sources tell Bloomberg BNA.

“There are a lot of people having a lot of transition conversations around this city, and we have made our strong preference for Julie known,” Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg BNA today. Those kicking around Su’s name include many from organized labor, Conti said.

Capitol Hill Democrats are also on board. Among Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Su is widely respected and already at the center of speculation about the post, a Democratic staffer told Bloomberg BNA.

Ross Eisenbrey, a vice president at the Economic Policy Institute, told Bloomberg BNA that when he meets with Clinton’s transition team, “I would be enthusiastic about” Su for U.S. labor secretary.

NELP and EPI have both helped frame labor policies in Democratic administrations, and two former EPI employees are on Clinton’s transition team.

Su Known for `Creative Enforcement.’

Su “has got a proven track record of strategic and creative enforcement,” Conti said. “She knows how to run a huge agency and deal with all the budget and management issues.”

Thomas Perez, the current labor secretary, has spent his personal time this past year campaigning for Clinton. Perez is rumored to be a contender for attorney general under Clinton.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointed Su to California’s top labor post in 2011 after she did a stint as litigation director at the civil rights group Advancing Justice LA. A former MacArthur Foundation genius fellow, she received an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and then graduated from Harvard Law School.

Conti and Eisenbrey are among the advocates who pushed the Obama administration to update rules to expand workers' overtime pay eligibility. That led to one of the president’s signature workplace regulations being finalized by the DOL this year.

David Madland, who shapes labor policies at the Center for American Progress, said he doesn’t know if the Clinton team is considering Su to run the DOL, but he would certainly recommend her.

“We’ve had Julie Su at events at the Center for American Progress and I witnessed her work,” Madland, a senior adviser to CAP’s American Worker Project, told Bloomberg BNA. “The best work she’s done is on enforcing the law, which is sadly a very important task for the labor secretary—to make sure that the basic standards are upheld, and she’s really at the forefront of ensuring that that happens.”

For instance, at her current job Su oversaw the launch of an enforcement team designed to investigate theft of labor, payment of wages with bounced checks, child labor violations and kickbacks on public works projects.

Republicans and business lobbyists have opposed Democratic efforts to prioritize aggressive labor enforcement over employer outreach to assist them with compliance.

A Su spokeswoman at her California office declined to comment on whether she’d be interested in the position if Clinton is elected.

Policy officials at Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers and Communications Workers of America all declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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