Appointment of Julie Su to Steer Labor Commission in Pro-Worker Direction

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Governor Jerry Brown’s appointment of Julie Su as California’s Labor Commissioner (the titular head of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, or DLSE) has been met with near-unanimous approval and enthusiasm by the plaintiffs’ bar and a marked lack of express opposition on the part of either defense firms or other natural opponents of the unabashedly “pro-worker” attorney. (Ms. Su has devoted the entirety of her legal career to causes on behalf of those unable to afford legal services at prevailing market rates, with an emphasis on low-wage and immigrant workers’ rights.) Julie Su brings the sort of exemplary credentials to the post that typically mute ideology-based criticism. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School and a past recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Ms. Su most recently served as Litigation Director for the Asian-Pacific American Legal Center, where she began her career directly out of law school in 1994.

Though Ms. Su’s appointment requires Senate confirmation, expected sources of opposition have been restrained, if not entirely silent. While the prominent wage-and-hour defense firm Jackson Lewis speculates on its California Workplace Law Blog that it “would not be surprised if the DLSE’s meal-period enforcement position changed,” it neither supports nor opposes the appointment, cautioning only that “[i]t will be important to closely monitor the DLSE web site and any upcoming speeches Ms. Su may deliver for any developments.” The full article is available here. And in its post announcing the Su appointment, the California Chamber of Commerce is assiduously factual, relating only the progression of Ms. Su’s extraordinary career, without venturing even the sort of cautionary aside in the Jackson Lewis article. That post is available here.

At the other end of the spectrum, Ms. Su’s reception is typified by the optimism expressed by the State Building & Trades Counsel of California: “In Julie Su, workers now have a strong, proven advocate for upholding their rights.” Their post is available here. Ms. Su’s confirmation appears to be a certainty, and her tenure as Labor Commissioner is expected to mark a pro-worker era in California.