Su Faces Further Opposition to Confirmation
Acting DOL Secretary Julie Su, President Biden’s nominee to run the Labor Department, is increasingly facing an uphill battle to her confirmation as lawmakers prepare to battle it out in the coming weeks when the Senate returns from recess. Congress heads into a two-week break with a few moderate Democrats expressing concern as to whether she’s right for the job, potentially leaving her beneath the 50 vote threshold necessary for confirmation.
Republicans are also voicing their concerns. Senator Bill Cassidy (LA), ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, specifically referenced Su’s stance on independent contractors and the gig economy. During her time in California, Su was a leading proponent of California’s Assembly Bill 5 law that introduced a three-stage test to prove a worker is an independent contractor rather than an employee. Senator Mike Braun (IN), a HELP Committee member, said he expects “a pretty significant” fight over the Labor nominee’s future.
On Thursday, March 30, more than 30 trade groups sent a letter to HELP Committee leaders Chair Bernie Sanders and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy expressing opposition to Su’s nomination. The letter cites her past work in California and several sensitive labor negotiations currently underway, which include ongoing talks involving the West Coast ports as well as negotiations between UPS and the Teamsters. Most of the letter focused on her time as California’s chief labor official and her support for a fast food-sector labor legislation, tightening the rules on independent contractor classification and handling of the state’s unemployment benefits system.
If confirmed, Su would be the first Asian American member of Biden’s Cabinet — his administration is the first in over 20 years to not include an Asian American Cabinet secretary. She does have support from both the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Asian American Action Fund, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus. Su is also supported by several major unions who want her confirmed to represent their interests including the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Fraternal Order of Police.
Su’s last confirmation process was also tough. She was confirmed by the Senate to serve as deputy secretary of Labor in a party line vote in July 2021, with no GOP support. That is likely to be the same case this time around if her confirmation comes up for a final passage vote.
Click here to read the letter.
Investing in America Tour
This week, First Lady Jill Biden will travel to several states as part of the administration’s “Investing in America Tour,” which is an effort to push President Biden’s economic agenda. First Lady Biden will highlight career-connected learning and workforce training programs - a key part of Biden’s “Beyond High School” education platform — with both Democratic and Republican governors across the country. On Monday, April 3, she will join Colorado Governor Jared Polis in Denver to highlight the state’s investments in community colleges and workforce training programs. In the afternoon, the first lady will head to Delta College in Saginaw, Michigan to visit their workforce training programs.
On Wednesday, April 5, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will join First Lady Biden for trips to Maine and Vermont - being joined by Governor Janet Mills at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, Maine to tout the state’s free community college program. They will also head to Burlington, Vermont, with Governor Phil Scott joining them on a visit to BETA Technologies, an electric aerospace company, to highlight federal and state investments in high school career and technical education programs related to electric vehicles.
Senate HELP Committee
On Tuesday, March 28, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced several of President Biden’s labor nominees - who will move to the Senate floor for votes later this year. The nominees include: Jose Javier Rodriguez to be Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor; Kalpana Kotagal to be a Member, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Jessica Looman to be Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor; Moshe Marvit to be a Member, Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission; and Linda Puchala and Deirdre Hamilton to be a members of the National Mediation Board.
Julie Su’s hearing for Secretary of Labor is set for Thursday, April 20.
House Committee Hearing
On Tuesday, March 28, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held the hearing “Unleashing America’s Opportunities for Hiring and Employment.’ Hearing witnesses included Stephen Moore, Senior Fellow in Economics at the Heritage Foundation; Chris Spear, President and CEO of American Trucking Associations; Jerry Akers, Franchisee/Owner of Great Clips and The Joint Chiropractic; and Dr. Heidi Shierholz, President of the Economic Policy Institute.
Click here to access a video of the hearing and witness testimonies.
Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending March 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 198,000, an increase of 7,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 191,000. The 4-week moving average was 198,250, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 196,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending March 18, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.
Click here to access the report.