Dec 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

AAPI lawmakers ramp up pressure on Biden to nominate Julie Su for Labor secretary

Photo of Julie Su standing for a portrait with her arms crossed in front
California Labor Secretary Julie Su. Photo: Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) lawmakers are pushing for President-elect Biden to nominate California Labor Secretary Julie Su to head the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it matters: Biden has been pulled in multiple directions by different stakeholders as he looks to follow through on appointing the “single-most diverse” Cabinet in U.S. history. AAPI lawmakers have escalated their calls in recent weeks, with Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) on Friday urging Biden to include an AAPI Cabinet secretary.

What they're saying: "Including an AAPI at this highest level of government, as Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump have done, is a recognition of the AAPI community’s impact and contributions to our nation," Chu, who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said in a statement.

  • “Secretary Su has exemplified her fervent commitment to tirelessly fighting for justice on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the vulnerable,” Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to Biden, signed by 14 other members of Congress, earlier this week.
  • Su would make "an exceptional leader" as labor secretary, Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday. "Zero #AAPI Cabinet Secretaries in his administration would be a disappointment for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders."
  • AAPI advocacy groups, immigration and labor organizations and women’s rights groups have also backed Su for labor secretary.

But some say the position needs someone with deeper roots in Washington, Politico reports.

  • Biden is also considering Patrick Gaspard, among others, for the position.
  • Gaspard, who will leave his position as president of the Open Society Foundations at the end of the year, was director of the White House Office of Political Affairs under former President Obama.

Context: Biden courted AAPI voters in the month leading up to the election, promising visibility and representation.

  • AAPI voter turnout jumped significantly this year, especially in critical swing states like Georgia, according to the Washington Post.
  • "Asian American leaders express pride in [Vice President-elect Kamala] Harris’s historic election, but they also chafe at the idea that her presence might give the transition team a pass on naming other AAPIs to Cabinet positions," the Post notes.
Go deeper