Throughout his administration, everyone nominated by Joe Biden seems to offer a unique amalgam of functional incompetence and ideological extremism.
Take Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s Transportation Secretary and former Democratic Party wunderkind, who likes to characterize America’s infrastructure as institutionally racist. After a series of high-profile performance debacles during his brief tenure, however, a majority of Americans now want him to resign.
Has there ever been a Transportation Secretary whose name a majority of Americans could even recognize, let alone desire his resignation?
Never one to learn a simple lesson and correct course, Biden just nominated Julie Su, former California Labor and Workforce Agency Secretary, to lead his Labor Department.
Su’s record in California was one of failure and partisan radicalism, which may make her a nice fit within the Biden Administration. For U.S. Senators reviewing her nomination, however, it should immediately disqualify her.
Let’s start with Su’s demonstrated incompetence.
On Su’s watch during the COVID pandemic, California’s Employment Development Department badly mismanaged state unemployment claims during a most desperate time for unemployed Californians. That wasn’t the opinion of Su’s partisan opponents, but rather the conclusion of a 2022 study from the California legislature’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office:
California’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program provides temporary wage replacement to unemployed workers…At the Employment Development Division (EDD) – which oversees UI – payments were delayed for roughly 5 million worders and improperly denied for likely 1 million more. The department’s phone lines were routinely overwhelmed by the number of frustrated callers. These failures caused hardship for unemployed workers and their families, held back the economic recovery during both periods, and spurred frustration among Californians with their state government.
Additionally, Su herself acknowledged that under her watch the EDD wasted up to $31 billion in taxpayer dollars through fraudulent unemployment benefit claims.
Apparently Joe Biden considers all of that a feature, not a bug. Under his administration, causing hardship for unemployed workers and their families, holding back economic recovery and spurring frustration among affected citizens qualifies Su to fail upward to apply her talents at the national level.
Exacerbating matters, Su’s radicalism matches her incompetence.
Perhaps most conspicuously, Su disregarded the concerns of working families by supporting California’s so-called “Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery” (FAST) Act. That bill allows a state government panel to dictate wages, benefits, training and other working conditions for restaurants. While advocates suggested that the law only affects fast-food restaurants, it also sweeps coffee shops, sushi counters, delicatessens, juice bars, yogurt shops, salad bars, bakeries, taquerias, pizzerias, burger counters and other food servers within its provisions.
The FAST Act also imposed through the back door what’s known as the “Joint Employer Rule,” which unfairly imposes legal liability on restaurant franchisors for employees whom they haven’t hired and over whom they exercise no everyday control. That upends longstanding U.S. labor law, which logically imposes liability on businesses when they exercise direct control over hiring, supervision and termination of employees in question.
In addition to causing job losses, independent analysis from the University of California-Riverside determined that the bill inflicts particular harm to lower-income Californians by raising food costs between 7% and 22%. That’s a tradeoff Su was willing to make to reach the deeper pockets of franchisors and placate Big Labor supporters. It remains a high priority for union activists at the national level, which again makes this a feature for the Biden Administration, not a bug.
Su also supported legislation that would forcibly reclassify millions of independent contractors and “gig” workers as formal employees. In an era of plentiful full-time and part-time job opportunities, gig workers choose the flexibility of setting their own hours, working in locations most desirable to them and their families, setting their own incomes, accepting or declining jobs as they please and working for different or even competing companies. Gig work also offers income opportunities for workers while they seek other long-term career opportunities (such as musicians, artists, students or parents).
Gig economy players like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash also offer consumers options unavailable until just recently. Even before the COVID pandemic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 55 million Americans – over one-third of the U.S. workforce – sought gig work, and contributed $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy.
Just this week, a California appellate court upheld a voter initiative preserving independent contractor status for certain industries against the wishes of people like Su, illustrating that her agenda is both unpopular and legally hapless even in deep-blue California.
None of that seems to deter Biden, however. Which means that it’s up to the U.S. Senate to provide adult supervision and reject Biden’s attempt to expand California’s failed labor policies on a nationwide scale.