Labor Watch

Meet Julie Su, the Would-Be Secretary of Forced Social Justice Unionism

This Thursday [April 20, 2023], Julie Su, President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as U.S. secretary of Labor, will appear before the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for her confirmation hearing.

Though it is not surprising that Biden, whose campaign was heavily backed by labor unions and who has vowed to empower the unions via policy, would choose to appoint a Labor secretary who likewise backs Big Labor, Su is that and so much more. She’s a full-spectrum ideologue of the far Left.

Biden’s first labor secretary, Marty Walsh, had liberal policy preferences and a pro-union bias but also had a background in private sector labor relations. In other words, his proclivities were moderated by practical realities.

Su, on the other hand, got her start as an academic and professional activist, which means her ideological motivation runs unchecked and is free to coalesce around the most radical forms of social justice unionism. Her record proves as much.

As California’s former Labor secretary, Su helped Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) implement the AB5 law that restricted independent contracting. This law has devastated California freelance workers, Uber drivers, and many other employees who sought flexibility in the workplace.

But this was one of Su’s goals all along. Under Su’s form of social justice unionism, organized labor is not an independent actor pursuing the material interests of its members or even the working class at large. Instead, labor unions work toward a full-spectrum, left-wing agenda by conscripting members into funding broad left-wing activism and by mobilizing their activists, who are both members and professional organizers, into broader left-wing campaigns.

So, while these are straightforward union goals behind Su’s push for AB5 and related “joint employer” rulemaking, including being able to pressure big companies with national brands, such as Uber, into unionization, Su also sought to shore up her social justice coalition. And to do so, she needed to knock the independent contractors, who work for themselves with their own capital, and franchisees who operate small enterprises. Kicking them in the shins to benefit the labor unions is a boon to the entire leftist coalition and draws in more forced dues.

Su explained her goals for social justice unionism back in the early 2000s in a chapter of the book, Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory. Reflecting on a campaign Su had led targeting the awful working conditions of some garment factories in the Los Angeles area, Su and her co-author suggested that, “We build critical coalitions not only because of the enhanced potential for favorable outcomes, but also because the process of coalition-building itself sometimes changes each of us.”

Translated from “academicspeak,” that sentence means that by using critical race theory and other critical demographic theory techniques, left-wing movements and labor unions seek to turn normal citizens into woke conscripts who, even if they do not act out of conviction for Su’s cause, are nonetheless forced to participate in it via forced dues.

Frighteningly, Su has made it clear she hopes to bring this agenda to the national stage. The PRO Act, for example, is the national version of AB5, and she is widely expected to push for its passage if confirmed as Biden’s Labor secretary.

A Labor Department led by Julie Su would be one driven by a career ideologue with a history of leftist activism. She would target independent contracting and franchised businesses, thus harming American entrepreneurship and individualism. Her nomination ought to give all lawmakers pause.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner on April 20, 2023.

Michael Watson

Michael is Research Director for Capital Research Center and serves as the managing editor for InfluenceWatch. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he previously worked for a…
+ More by Michael Watson

Support Capital Research Center's award-winning journalism

Donate today to assist in promoting the principles of individual liberty in America.

Read Next