Acting – and hoping to be permanent – Secretary of Labor Julie Su will face tough congressional questioning when she appears before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce Wednesday.
While technically not part of the confirmation process Su is trying to squeeze through in the Senate, House members will undoubtedly focus on a number of similar issues, such as Su’s disastrous reign of error as California’s labor secretary and pandemic EDD chief and her support for heavy restrictions on freelance, gig, and independent workers.
“It’s déjà vu at the Department of Labor. Julie Su’s blatant disregard for oversight and anti-worker agenda is a carbon copy of Walsh’s playbook,” said committee chair woman Virginia Foxx, (R-NC). “Just look at her record of mismanagement as California’s Secretary of Labor: She lost $32 billion in taxpayer money to fraud and implemented legislation that devastated independent contractors. As Deputy Secretary of Labor, she has continued to put Big Labor interests over the rights of the American worker.”
Foxx’s committee oversees the Department of Labor and regularly asks the Secretary – whomever it may be – to testify. In this instance, Foxx had to make multiple requests to Su to appear, openly wondering if her hesitance was related to her confirmation quest.
“I was further concerned that you are avoiding answering questions posed by Committee members before a potential consideration of your nomination by the Senate,” Foxx wrote Su.
While she passed through – on a strict party-line vote – a Senate committee confirmation hearing, a final floor vote on Su’s nomination has yet to be scheduled. At least four Democratic/Independent senators have yet to publicly state whether or not they will vote for her, leaving her confirmation in peril because if only two vote “no” it will fail.
The issues that are currently dogging Su have their origins in California. While she oversaw the EDD, the agency managed to simultaneously lose about $40 billion to fraudsters while it held up or otherwise bungled legitimate pandemic unemployment benefits to millions of Californians.
The EDD still owes the federal government $17.5 billion dollars – about half of the amount lost to fraud – that it borrowed to cover benefit payments. And even though the EDD made an $1.8 billion payment against the debt, it immediately began to borrow more from the feds – $139 every second, in fact – to be able to cover current clearly non-pandemic related unemployment benefits.
Su has also been grilled on the impacts of AB 5, the California law that severely restricted the ability of the state’s freelance/gig/independent workers. Su was the laws chief enforcer, a task she performed with zeal, at one point saying that those workers did not represent “the economy we want in California.”
She has also spoke in favor of the PRO Act, a proposed federal law stalled in Congress that mimics AB-5 and though she has told senators she would not attempt to re-create the strictures of AB-5 on the federal level though internal regulatory action, she may in fact be doing that now, or at least was doing that as Deputy Secretary of Labor until she was nominated for the top spot.
Truckers – many of whom are independent owner-operators that were negatively impacted by AB 5 – have been especially adamant in their opposition to Su over this issue.
“Julie Su failed the trucking workforce in California,” said Todd Spencer, president of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “She should not be given a promotion and the opportunity to impose her failed policies across America.”
Congressman Kevin Kiley (R-Roseville) is a member of the committee who has been highly critical of Su in the past and is expected to pepper her with questions about the EDD and AB-5.
“From allowing a staggering $32.6 billion in unemployment insurance fraud to occur on her watch to championing and aggressively enforcing AB 5 to destroy as many California livelihoods as possible, Julie Su owes answers to the Californians harmed under her tenure and to the American people on why she plans to implement California’s failed policies nationwide,” Kiley said. “I look forward to fulfilling my oversight responsibilities and obtaining much needed answers at Wednesday’s hearing.”
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