Julie Su appointed as California's Labor Commissioner

Last week, I received the awesome news that Julie Su, litigation director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles, has been appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to be California's Labor Commissioner.

She was already known as a fierce labor law warrior, but this appointment takes her asskicking to a whole other level. You dare violate California's labor laws? Face the battle-tested and state-approved justice of Julie Su! Here's APALC's press release:



LOS ANGELES, CA - The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), a member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, congratulates long-time APALC Litigation Director Julie A. Su on her appointment by California Governor Jerry Brown to be the next Chief of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Also known as the Labor Commissioner, the position is responsible for setting priorities for and enforcing state labor standards and, as such, plays a significant role in protecting California’s large low-wage and immigrant workforce.

"Julie Su has been an incredible and inspiring advocate at APALC, and we will miss her greatly," said Stewart Kwoh, APALC executive director. "But there is no one better suited for this job than Julie, who has devoted her legal career to civil rights and particularly to fighting for the rights of low-wage and immigrant workers. APALC will miss her but we also are proud that in her new role, she will be able to make a difference for workers all across the state."

Su has worked at APALC since 1994, when she joined the organization on a Skadden Fellowship, and she served as lead counsel in a ground-breaking federal lawsuit in 1995 to hold brand name garment manufacturers and retailers liable for utilizing slave labor to manufacture their clothing. The case involved 80 Thai and Latino garment workers who worked behind barbed wire for years in an apartment complex in El Monte, California. Su and APALC have litigated numerous cases on behalf of low-wage workers. Su has also litigated to end discrimination and segregation in education and in the workplace. She has represented African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans in cases ranging from a challenge to UC Berkeley’s admissions policy to confronting Abercrombie & Fitch’s discriminatory hiring practices.

"I am truly honored to have been appointed by the Governor to lead California’s labor law enforcement agency," Su said. "It’s a tremendous opportunity to make an impact and I look forward to the challenge of ensuring a more fair and just workplace for both employees and employers. APALC is where I started my career and where I have had the absolute privilege of fighting for civil rights alongside amazing advocates. This appointment is a recognition of the critical leadership role APALC has played and continues to play in making our state and the nation a better place."

Su is a past recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Grant, and has also been honored as an international human rights activist, named in 2006 by the Gruber Foundation for its international Women's Rights Prize and receiving the Reebok International Human Rights Award in 1996.

Su is the daughter of Chinese immigrants and earned her law degree from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree from Stanford University.
I know more than a few social justice-minded attorneys who count Julie Su among their heroes. For many, her tireless, groundbreaking work is closely tied and practically synonymous with the advocacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. She'll be missed at APALC, but no doubt, she'll be an effective and much-needed leader in her new position for the state of California. Congratulations.

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