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Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su subpoenaed over plan to return employees to offices

In World
May 08, 2024

Charging that Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su has engaged in “a posture of blatant negligence” in her dealings with Congress, a Republican-led House committee has subpoenaed her to get cooperation.

Before coming to the Labor Department, Su was part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s team. She was California’s Secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Department until 2021, when she became the U.S. Labor Department’s deputy secretary.

But President Joe Biden’s efforts to elevate her to secretary in March 2023 have gone nowhere because of Republican opposition and some Democratic skepticism over her stewardship of the state agency. The Senate has not voted on her confirmation this year

Su’s state agency included the California Employment Development Department, which presided over a chaotic, widely criticized effort to manage claims during the COVID pandemic.

House Republicans have been relentlessly blasting Su ever since, and the subpoena is their latest offensive.

“Under Acting Secretary Su, the (Labor Department) has adopted a posture of blatant negligence in complying with the Committee’s oversight requests – vague answers and routine failures to provide requested materials have become the norm,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

The committee issued the subpoena, which directs Su to provide her department’s plan to return its employees to their offices.

The Labor Department said it had responded to committee requests “wiith substantial information about the department’s telework practices, and communicated to them just hours before the subpoena that we were in the midst of preparing an additional response.”

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee’s top Democrat, defended Su. He told her last week at a committee hearing that he’s “delighted” at how responsive she’s been to committee requests.

“The previous administration was not nearly as responsive to Congress’s oversight requests as this one has been. In most cases, they just ignored our requests altogether,” he said of the Trump administration.

Su’s nomination has consistently drawn fire from Republicans, notably Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Roseville.

At the end of the Su hearing before the House committee last week, Kiley closed the session saying, “I’m going to be blunt. It’s time for you to step down. This has gotten ridiculous.”

Because she has served as acting secretary for an unusually long period of time, “everything the department does right now is under a legal cloud,” Kiley said.

Laws governing the top Labor job set no precise time limits on how long an acting secretary can serve in the job.

The current Su controversy involves the January push from the White House telling agencies to report progress on post-pandemic plans to get workers back to their offices.

On March 6, Foxx sent Su a letter seeking details of its return to office plan. In April, Foxx got a response but found it insufficient.

This week, Foxx said she was not satisfied that Su had responded to requests for a report on getting workers back in the office.

The congresswoman wrote Su a letter saying the committee “is not persuaded that DOL is taking the transition back to in-person work seriously.”

Su has until March 14 at noon to provide the material sought in the subpoena.

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