An extraordinary threat to America’s working families is playing out with very little fanfare: President Biden’s nomination of Julie Su as the next secretary of the Department of Labor.

The appointment of Su, who formerly served as California Labor and Workforce Development Agency secretary and currently holds the position of deputy secretary of labor, is a terrifying prospect for tipped workers in Maine, who just last year organized to prevent the elimination of the tip credit in Portland.

Su’s confirmation would not only jeopardize this effort, but also would ensure that tipped workers in Maine and nationwide would face unprecedented threats to their livelihoods. In an interview following her nomination, Su was quoted as saying: “I believe in the transformative power of America. I know the transformative power of a good job.”

While this may seem like a positive, don’t be fooled.

In reality, Su’s damaging policies will introduce thousands of tipped workers to the transformative power of losing their jobs. Su is a vocal advocate of permanently eliminating the tip credit – which allows workers to be paid a lower minimum wage as long as they are earning at least the full minimum wage when tips are included- in favor of a higher mandated minimum wage. When in place, the tip credit system often results in workers’ earnings totaling much higher than if they were simply paid a stagnant hourly rate.

Despite this, Su has repeatedly mischaracterized the full-service restaurant industry and tipping culture as abusive and oppressive, going so far as to call tipped work “a legacy of slavery.”


These depictions are not only inaccurate and insulting, they are dangerous.

The vast majority of tipped workers are strongly in favor of the tip credit, a fact that Su appears unconcerned with in her crusade to rob us of our industry and incomes. Mandating a minimum wage while eliminating a tip credit will have a bevy of debilitating consequences including fewer hours, fewer available jobs, the elimination of support staff and the loss of jobs entirely. Negative consequences like these are already playing out in places like Seattle, which has recklessly eliminated the tip credit and mandated a wage hike.

This is not the first time that Su has worked to prevent workers from maximizing their income. As California Labor and Workforce Development Agency secretary, she championed the passage of California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5). This law attempts to reclassify independent contractors as employees, making it essentially impossible to operate as an independent contractor in the sunshine state. Although the bill was opposed by more than 90 percent of California’s independent contractors, Su went as far as to promise audits and investigations of impacted workers across a wide swath of professions critical to California’s economy.

Just as she supports reclassifying thousands of workers despite their opposition, Su promises to bring similarly devastating consequences to tipped workers on a national level if confirmed. It is clear that there could be no worse candidate to “advocate” for workers than Julie Su, whose record demonstrates a commitment to policies that will create instability instead of transformation. Tipped workers here in Maine and nationwide can be assured that the income and independence we have fought for are on the line with her appointment.

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