ATA pens letter to Senate leadership opposing Biden's DOL pick

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Updated Jun 7, 2023

The American Trucking Associations on Friday reiterated its opposition to Julie Su’s nomination as U.S. Secretary of Labor, citing her role in helping pass and implement California's AB 5 law as Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. She has served as the department's Acting Secretary since mid-March. 

"... we have grave concerns over Ms. Su’s role in implementing California’s disastrous AB 5, which essentially outlawed this business model for trucking," wrote ATA President & CEO Chris Spear. "Her responses to questions posed during Committee consideration of her nomination and a lack of outreach to the business community she would be charged with regulating have failed to reassure the trucking industry on how she would approach such an existential issue if confirmed to lead the Department of Labor."

[Related: How the government stole $4.8 trillion from truck drivers]

The agency's most recent letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell follows one ATA sent to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, in March. 

Su's nomination remains stalled in the Senate where President Joe Biden's pick to lead the DOL presumably doesn't have enough votes for confirmation. In his nomination of Su in February, Biden called Su "a tested and experienced leader, who will continue to build a stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive economy that provides Americans a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead."

In his most recent communication, Spear called on the trucking industry to oppose any nominee who considers California’s AB 5 a successful policy, adding "[t]hat state bill was designed to strip independent drivers of the freedom of choice to operate as contractors. It wreaked havoc on tens of thousands of small businesses. It forced families to leave California to preserve their incomes and their way of life. Its destruction of the ecosystem of independent contractors in California would be an unparalleled disaster for our supply chains if rolled out nationwide. Freight would cease to move, and the American dream for hundreds of thousands of small businessmen and women could be eradicated."

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) have echoed Spear and ATA's concerns and generally have opposed Su's nomination to the top DOL spot, but not all signs of trouble stem from AB 5. Spear cited additional concerns with DOL potentially revising its own guidance in determining who is an employee or independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

"We remain concerned by the notice of proposed rulemaking published by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in October 2022, because it would likely have a similar effect as California’s AB 5 unless the administration changes course. Ms. Su already has significant authority over that rulemaking in her current position as Deputy Secretary of Labor and would have nearly complete authority to author a final rule if confirmed as Secretary," Spear wrote. "Our nation’s truckers cannot support her elevation to that position given her demonstrated willingness to eliminate the independent contractor business model and throw supply chains into chaos, and her unwillingness to address this matter with the Senate or our industry."

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].