More than 250 business leaders are urging the Senate to confirm acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to helm the department, according to a letter first obtained by CNBC.
“Julie Su is a trailblazer whose track record speaks for itself,” reads the letter, which cited her experience as Labor secretary of California. “She led efforts to combat wage theft, expand access to health care and paid family leave, and provide legal services for workers facing exploitation. Additionally, her experience as U.S. Deputy Labor Secretary has given her a thorough understanding of the Labor Department and the current issues facing the economy, businesses, and workers.”
The letter, addressed to both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was sent Thursday. It was signed by the likes of YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and OpenTable CEO Debby Soo. Other signatories include Caroline Tsay, who serves on the board of directors for Coca-Cola and Morningstar; Roy Salamé, a former managing director and vice chair at JP Morgan Chase; Eric Kim, co-founder and managing partner of Goodwater Capital; and Cindy McNamara, a Bank of America vice president.
Su has faced strong backlash from some members of the business community for her pro-labor stances, hampering her track to confirmation. She was confirmed to be deputy secretary to former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh in 2021 by a party-line vote, but several key moderate Democrats have yet to say whether they will support her this round.
A committee in the Democratic-held Senate advanced her nomination late last month.
If confirmed, Su would be the first Asian American and Pacific Islander Cabinet secretary in the Biden administration. She would join Cabinet-level AAPI officials Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and Arati Prabhakar, Office of Science and Technology policy director.
The signatories, many of whom are Asian American, expressed concern about the lack of AAPI representation in government, which they call “deeply concerning.” The letter cites a report from the Reflective Democracy Campaign that found AAPI individuals compose only 0.9% of elected leaders across all levels of government, even though they make up 6.1% of the overall population.
It goes on to note that members of the AAPI community own more than 2.5 million small businesses and are responsible for the creation of over five million jobs.
“Their impact on the economy is significant and it is crucial that they are strongly represented at the highest level of government,” the letter said.
The White House has been steadfast in its support for Su’s confirmation. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated the stance at a press briefing Wednesday.
“She’s met with dozens of senators on both sides of the aisle and we’re working very hard every day for every vote,” Jean-Pierre said. “That is certainly something that she’s doing, certainly something that we’re doing on her behalf. And we’re feeling confident about her process and looking forward to the floor consideration in the near future.”
Su also has the backing of labor unions including the United Mine Workers, NABTU, LiUNA, the IBEW and AFL-CIO, as well as the Small Business Majority to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.