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Ranking Member Cassidy Delivers Remarks During Hearing on Nomination of Julie Su for DOL Secretary

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks during today’s hearing on the nomination of Department of Labor (DOL) Acting Secretary Julie Su to be Secretary of DOL. He discussed serious concerns about Su’s ability or intention to act as an unbiased secretary as opposed to an activist. 

Cassidy laid out Su’s long history of activism and advocacy for partisan policies. Specifically, he criticized a proposed DOL rule released under Su’s leadership that would limit Americans’ ability to classify themselves as independent contractors and set their own hours. Additionally, he raised concerns over Su’s tenure as Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, where she oversaw the implementation of AB 5, a law that removed the flexibility of individuals to work as independent contractors.

He also discussed Su’s checkered past with leading an agency and lack of negotiation experience, a key responsibility of the DOL Secretary to avert labor disputes from resulting in crucial supply chain shortages and economic turmoil. With 150 labor contracts expiring this year, Cassidy expressed the serious concern of replacing former Secretary Marty Walsh with someone who has no direct experience handling labor disputes.

Click here to watch the hearing live. 

Thank you, Chair Sanders.

This Committee's priority should be to ensure that the Department of Labor is fair and unbiased when enforcing our nation's labor laws. The Secretary of Labor should be a leader who is responsible, experienced, and skilled – not an activist. 

There are, unfortunately, serious concerns about Acting Secretary Julie Su’s record that call into question whether she has the ability to responsibly lead the Department. 

As Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Ms. Su was the chief enforcer of AB 5—a controversial law that dismantles the gig economy such as Uber, Door Dash, and Lyft, and removes the flexibility of individuals to work as independent contractors.

Independent contractors, or freelancers, make their own hours and choose the type of work they wish to do. They are shielded from forced or coerced unionization that would strip that flexibility away. This has made eliminating freelancing a top priority for large labor unions who want more workers paying forced union dues.

Even in California, AB 5 is unpopular. The governor and state legislature had to pass over 100 exemptions after it was implemented. In fact, the statutory exemptions are longer than the text of AB 5 itself. 59 percent of Californians voted to further erode the bill, which naturally labor unions challenged in court.

In 2019, Ms. Su described employers who opposed California’s overreaching law as not understanding the economy that, “we want in California.”

As Acting and Deputy Secretary of Labor, Ms. Su is overseeing the Biden administration’s push to eliminate independent contracting via federal executive rulemaking, to the detriment of workers.

If finalized, the new regulation would strip 21 million individuals of their ability to be independent contractors and to enjoy the flexibility this provides. A law rejected in California is not a policy that we should spread across the nation. 

I also wish to hear Ms. Su’s position on DOL’s effort to uproot the franchise model, which employs over 8 million Americans. Ms. Su has made public comments in support of a new joint employer rule, which would impact the almost 800,000 franchises operating in our communities.

Saddling franchisers with liability for thousands of franchise owners that operate as small businesses would be a sure way to destroy the system of franchising. This model has empowered underrepresented groups in the business community, such as women and people of color. It has given them the opportunity to live the American dream, become successful small business owners, create jobs, and lift other workers out of poverty.

No one is surprised that the joint employer rule is a major priority for large labor unions. It’s easier to pressure one company to unionize to increase their union dues than to pressure thousands of independent businesses.

President Biden promises to have the most “pro-union” administration in history. At her nomination announcement, Ms. Su responded saying, “Sign me up for that. I want to help do that.”

The priority should not be whatever makes it easier to forcibly and coercively unionize workers while undermining the business model that employs them.

As a Republican, I don’t expect to agree with the political positions of a Biden nominee. But we should expect that the heads of our federal government are not driven by activism to carry out an agenda for a favored political group. We need leaders who will responsibly carry out the duties of the office and give all comers a fair shake. 

It is also the responsibility of the Secretary to be a good administrator. As Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Ms. Su oversaw the Employment Development Department (EDD), the state’s unemployment program. She lost over $30 billion in fraud by waiving basic fact-checking requirements recommended by the Department of Labor guidance. The California State Auditor reported, “Despite repeated warnings, EDD did not bolster its fraud detection efforts until months into the pandemic, and it suspended a critical safeguard.”

Under Ms. Su, fraud in California was rampant. Rapper Nuke Bizzle was arrested, pled guilty, and was ordered to pay 705,000 dollars in restitution after posting a music video bragging about how easy it was to defraud the EDD program. The lyrics include, “I done got rich off of EDD. Ain't hit no more licks 'cause of EDD. And just last night, I was sellin' Ps. And I just woke up to 300 Gs.” For the record, my interpretation is that 300 Gs is 300,000 dollars.

The rapper was held accountable not because of Ms. Su’s oversight, but because he publicly admitted to his crime.

I ask unanimous consent to insert a transcript of Nuke Bizzle’s music video, entitled “EDD”, into the record.

This mismanagement does not inspire confidence that Ms. Su can run a multi-billion-dollar organization.

Former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh developed trust with the business community as well as labor unions. Setting his politics aside, Marty Walsh had significant experience in negotiations and managing organizations. That experience is important. But now, with 150 labor contracts expiring this year, the potential of replacing him with someone who has a history of bias and no direct experience handling labor disputes should be concerning to everyone.

I look forward to hearing from Ms. Su as she addresses these concerns of the Committee. 




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