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DOL Nominee Julie Su Is Bad News for Freelancers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Fast Company, which bills itself as a business magazine, recently published a brilliant work of fiction claiming the selection of deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su to succeed Marty Walsh is good news for freelancers. 


An architect of the disastrous California Assembly Bill (AB) 5 will represent the best interests of freelancers? This claim is not only laughable, it’s devoid of reality. It’s undeniable the gaslighting is strong here. 

The piece, entitled, “Why Julie Su’s appointment to lead the Labor Department could be good news for gig workers,” is a shoddy piece of journalism. 

“It’s unclear how tough of a stance Su would take on the gig economy, compared to other issues,” the author writes. 

Unclear? Are they serious? There are countless reports of Su’s actions and statements in support of forced classification under an ABC test that she helped craft to severely alter the Golden State’s freelance economy. 

In a 2019 interview with CalMatters, Julie Su praised AB5 and claimed “it will set a model for the country.” That, alone, should terrify freelancers across the nation.

The author continues, “A large part of Su’s role in California was helping craft AB 5, which established a three-part test that led many of the state’s gig workers to be redefined as employees.” 

Here, the author accurately reports Su was pivotal in upending the freelance economy in that state. A law so unpopular and shoddily implemented, the leftist San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said it may be plausible that AB5 is “unconstitutional” for violating the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for selectively applying to certain industries and not others. The Court remanded this decision back to a lower court for review. This revived Proposition 22 - a law that protects California rideshare drivers from being reclassified as W2 employees.


Since being enacted into law, AB5 displaced many freelancers from the workforce. The ABC test subjects workers to unreasonable criteria to prove they are an independent contractor and not a traditional W2 employee. 

Despite concerns about Su’s selection, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced her nomination following her April 20th committee hearing. A full Senate vote, however, looks unlikely at this time. Given Senator Dianne Feinstein’s absence and four undecided Democrat Senators – Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) – the Biden pick is not a shoo-in. 

“Julie Su has an extensive record of partisan activism and promoting policies that undermine workers to the benefit of politically-connected labor unions,” said Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), ranking member on the Senate HELP Committee.  “A qualified Secretary of Labor needs to successfully handle negotiations, manage a department properly, and refrain from partisan activism. I haven’t seen evidence of Julie Su’s ability to do any of those three things.” 

While the House of Representatives doesn’t handle presidential nominations, freshman congressman and AB5 opponent Kevin Kiley (R-CA) dedicated his ”Examining Biden’s War on Independent Contractors” hearing to highlighting Julie Su’s anti-worker record.


“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 has repeatedly disqualified herself from leading the U.S. Labor Department,”  Kiley said in a statement. 

Different coalition groups also warned against the selection of the Labor Department’s No. 2 person. 

A grassroots coalition called Stand Against Su formed to oppose her nomination on the grounds she is anti-worker. The group comprises “small businesses, freelancers, tipped workers, and franchisees.” 

They not only cite her poor track record with regards to AB5, but failure to properly steward $40 billion in pandemic relief–including payments that went to death row inmates and deceased Californians.

The Flex Association, which represents rideshare drivers, similarly conveyed their skepticism over Su’s selection, writing, “We are also concerned that the Administration’s current nominee to lead the Department, Ms. Su: (1) does not fully appreciate the potential impact of policies that undermine independent work on both workers—who appreciate the flexibility, in particular— and those that depend on the services they provide, and (2) has a record indicating an oppositional approach to policymaking that carries real implications as she seeks to be elevated to serve as the Department’s primary policymaker.” 


Here’s what is crystal clear: Julie Su is vehemently anti-worker and not suitable to helm the Labor Department given her track record.  

Unfortunately, the Biden administration is intent on having pro-labor advocates like her to implement aspects of AB5 and its federal companion bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, by regulatory fiat. 

Rulemaking must reflect reality: The U.S. workforce is trending towards freelance arrangements– not back to unionized, traditional jobs. The White House shouldn’t nominate corrupt individuals like Julie Su. 


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