The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don’t point to her resume


Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) recently published an op-ed encouraging their peers in the Senate to confirm Julie Su as deputy secretary of Labor. The senators argue that Su is qualified for the job based on her track record as California’s top labor official.

With all due respect to the senators, this piece could have only been written by someone who hasn’t spent much time in California.

Countless Californians, ranging from business owners to those struggling on unemployment, have suffered because of Su’s incompetence. While Su was at the helm of the Golden State’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA), the “most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history” took place at the Employment Development Department (EDD). Here’s how it went down.

Prior to the pandemic, the EDD failed to update its outdated system, even though California had set aside $30 million for a modernization effort more than four years earlier. Under Su’s leadership, this crucial update never made it out of the “planning stages.”

When the pandemic hit, millions of Californians tried to apply for desperately needed unemployment insurance benefits. In response, the EDD’s system crumbled, and Californians seeking help were abandoned. Fewer than one percent of calls were answered by the agency helpline. As many as 1.8 million Californians suffered without their payments.

The outrage was so great that state leaders demanded an auditor look into the problems plaguing the EDD. While investigating the website debacle, the audit also uncovered massive fraud that was taking place during the same time period.

The audit found that leaders at the EDD, including Su specifically, decided to respond to pandemic chaos by allowing the staff to cut corners on unemployment insurance verification processes. As a result, California paid out more than $11 billion in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims under Su’s watch, including $1 billion to criminals, several of whom were on death row. A fraudulent claim was even made in the name of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Su also failed to fully address a previous audit which called on the EDD to remedy certain data privacy concerns. When Su took office, the state auditor told her the EDD needed to stop including full Social Security numbers on mailings since anything sent to a wrong address could compromise Californians. Su never got around to fixing this issue on the three most common forms. As a result, millions of pieces of mail were sent to incorrect addresses with fully exposed Social Security numbers. One address used by fraudsters was sent more than 1,700 claims by the EDD.

Those who had their identities stolen had as much luck getting someone on the phone as those who were trying to get their unemployment checks. To make matters worse, Su chose to freeze 1.4 million unemployment accounts in the state when she was notified of the fraud, leaving thousands of law-abiding Californians without access to their money.

Unfortunately, Su’s failure of leadership is nothing new in California. For years, Su failed to step in when California businesses were unfairly targeted by lawsuits under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). This law is unique to California, and it encourages trial attorneys to target small businesses for minor or even accidental violations of the state’s over 1,100 pages of complex labor laws. New research from former labor officials under Govs. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger finds that the law leaves employees and business worse off, while lining the pockets of lawyers. By failing to properly review PAGA claims, the LWDA has contributed to the current broken system.

From top to bottom, Californians suffered because of Su’s inability to respond to preventable problems. If the residents of Illinois or Hawaii had been subject to this level of incompetence, it’s doubtful Sens. Duckworth and Hirono would have as many kind words to say.

Su has done enough damage to the people and businesses of California. We shouldn’t export her failed policies to Washington.

Tom Manzo is the president and founder of the California Business and Industrial Alliance.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Labor Department Mazie Hirono Tammy Duckworth

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Regular the hill posts

See all Hill.TV See all Video

main area bottom custom html

MAIN Area bottom

Main area bottom

Top Stories

See All

Most Popular

Load more