(WASHINGTON) — President Biden on Wednesday introduced Julie Su as his nominee to replace Marty Walsh as secretary of labor, and if confirmed, she would be the first Asian American to serve in his Cabinet as a department secretary.
She was previously confirmed by the Senate to her current role as deputy labor secretary in 2021.
Biden praised her record during a White House ceremony.
“She has increased the minimum wage, cracked down on wage theft, protected — protected trafficked workers, established and enforced workplace safety standards and so much more. At the Department of Labor, she’s led the effort to ensure jobs of high-growth industries like semiconductor manufacturing, broadband healthcare, and so much more, making sure they’re good paying jobs, high quality jobs and union jobs, union jobs,” Biden said.
“Julie is the American Dream,” he said.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Julie recounted her mom’s journey to America while accepting the nomination.
“Sixty years ago, my mom came to the United States on a cargo ship, because she couldn’t afford a passenger ticket,” she said. “Recently, she got a call from the president of the United States, telling her that her daughter was going to be nominated to be U.S. labor secretary.”
Born in Wisconsin, Su went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She began her legal career working as a Litigation Director for Advancing Justice L.A., a non-profit civil rights organization. Su later worked under Gavin Newsom as the Secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency before accepting her current role as deputy labor secretary in 2021.
Her nomination came in the wake of Walsh’s decision to join the National Hockey League Players Association as executive director. Walsh thanked Biden for the nomination of Su, whom he called his “dear friend and colleague.”
“She is a lifelong champion of America’s workers,” Walsh said in a statement on Wednesday. “And I have the utmost confidence in her ability to sustain the work of the department and advance the President’s vision of an economy that puts workers first and leaves no one behind.”
Su’s nomination was praised by AAPI members of Congress and activists, along with the endorsement of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus.
Last month, CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., sent a letter to Biden along with four senators and 29 members of the House urging Su for the role.
Biden’s nomination would further his goal of having the most diverse Cabinet in history. Currently, there are three Asian Americans serving in Biden’s Cabinet but none with the title of secretary: Vice President Kamala Harris, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy director, Arati Prabhakar and U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai.
“This would be a historic confirmation,” said CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu of California, “as it would further advance President Biden’s pledge to create an Administration that reflects the diversity of our country. I strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly and confirm Julie Su’s nomination.”
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Julie, “would be a phenomenal labor secretary. The president couldn’t have picked a better nominee. I’m really excited about her and we’re going to move to consider her nomination very very quickly.”
While the Democrat-controlled Senate is likely to confirm Su, her nomination could become contentious. Last month, several California Republicans, including Kim Young, who is of Korean American, wrote a letter to Biden expressing opposing Su’s nomination. They cite Su’s role in the creation of the controversial California Labor Law AB5, which classified some gig workers as employees which critics say limited the ability for employers to hire freelancers.
Su’s nomination hearing will likely be scheduled by the end of March.
ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.