Hearing Recap: Acting Secretary Su Edition
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 7, 2023
Sparks flew during today’s Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing to discuss Biden’s FY 2024 budget request for the Department of Labor (DOL). The Committee hearing was graced by the presence of Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, perhaps the most controversial name in Washington. “Graced” is the operative term here because the Committee was unsure if Su would even appear until the eleventh hour.
The Committee tried time and time again to schedule Su’s appearance. This came after she repeatedly provided insufficient answers to the Committee’s oversight requests. Finally, under threat of subpoena, Su made her statutorily mandated trek to Capitol Hill so that the people’s elected representatives could conduct oversight of the DOL.
Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) kicked off the hearing with a tone-setting question. Referring to a late Friday evening correspondence with Su’s staff claiming that she was unavailable for today’s hearing, Chairwoman Foxx asked in her opening statement, “What was so important that you were willing to stop the work of a Congressional Committee, upend the schedules of 45 Members of Congress, and leave the American people’s concerns unanswered?” Committee members are still waiting for a response.
Su’s record as California Secretary of Labor is mired with mismanagement, allowing California taxpayers to lose $32 billion in unemployment insurance to fraudsters. Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) honed in on these issues with a rapid-fire volley of questions about his home state’s economic outlook.
“California currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation, is that right?” (Yes)
“Which state has the highest real poverty rate in the country?” (California)
“Do you happen to know where California ranks when it came to net earning growth this past year?” (50th out of 50)
If employment, poverty, and earnings levels are benchmarks for a good economy, by Su’s own standards she has failed on all accounts.
This track record is particularly important because the Biden administration has attempted to federalize key pieces of policy that Su championed while serving as California Secretary of Labor, namely a law called AB5. If her policy led to California’s dismal economy, certainly it wouldn’t be good for the nation. When asked by Rep. Kiley if AB5 was simply “a good law,” Su refused to answer.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) joined in the criticism of Su’s record but at the federal level as Acting Secretary of Labor. A piece by The New York Times of all outlets exposed DOL’s negligence to 250,000 children pouring over the southern border, many of whom are exposed to unsafe working conditions in violation of child labor laws.
Rep. Banks asked, “What are you doing about it?”
Su responded, “I agree that children doing that work is horrific. This is also related to the budget request...”
But this has nothing to do with the budget request. Biden has more money than Trump ever did, yet child labor violations have increased 37 percent over the previous year alone. Also, over the previous year, the number of cases with child labor violations is up by nearly 12 percent, and the number of minors employed in hazardous occupations is up by more than 26 percent. The difference is the now-open border and the willful ignorance of DOL to enforce the law.
Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) moved the conversation to a DOL rule regarding retirees’ pension funds. The rule states that financial institutions can invest retirements on woke environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors, rather than on maximizing return. Rep. Allen asked the question, “Should maximizing assets for retirements be a pension plans’ top priority?”
In theory Su agreed, but in practice, the administration is doing exactly the opposite. The misguided ESG regulation is still on the books thanks to Biden’s veto of a congressional resolution disapproving of the rule.
Following Reps. Foxx, Kiley, Banks and Allen, Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) questioned Su on policy that hits close to home for his constituents in Pennsylvania: How is DOL’s Big Labor favoritism hurting working families? Specifically, what is the administration doing about project labor agreements where non-union construction workers are excluded from winning federal contracts?
“[I] would love to have your support to ensure that all workers – whether they’ve chosen to be a part of a union or not – can have access to these jobs that are available for federal projects,” said Rep. Smucker. “It’s certainly important in the area that I represent where I’ve seen workers excluded through these agreements.”Finally, Rep. Julie Letlow (R-LA) concluded the Republican oversight effort on a similar, district-level note. A workforce development program called YouthBuild has served Louisianians well since 2001, boasting a 96 percent certification completion rate. Yet, DOL denied a grant application from her community this year for not being sufficiently pro-green jobs, pro-union, and pro-equity. Louisianians have relied on YouthBuild for 22 years, and DOL pulled the rug out from under them.
In essence, that’s the rub. Woke ideology, green energy initiatives, and Big Labor bias have seeped from the top, starting with Julie Su, down into every level of the DOL bureaucracy, and it is having real effects on Americans. This is but one example of the importance of seemingly low-level grant approval decisions. In Rep. Letlow’s words and for her community, “It’s devastating that they were denied this year.”
Bottom Line: Committee Republicans are fighting back against Julie Su’s radical DOL that seeks to strip Americans of their livelihoods.