Division of Labor: Controversial Teachers' Union Funded Labor Secretary’s Speech, Then the Doors Opened

Julie Su hobnobbed with American Federation of Teachers officials after controversial union funded her conference appearance.

Evelyn DeJesus (R), executive vice president for American Federation of Teachers and Secretary of Labor Julie Su at the AFL-CIO 2024 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference 2024. (LCLLA/Facebook)
June 6, 2024

The American Federation of Teachers funded a speech that acting labor secretary Julie Su delivered to a labor group last December. Over the following months, Su hobnobbed with American Federation of Teachers officials at conferences in Las Vegas and Alabama and hosted its controversial union chief Randi Weingarten at an event to hammer out policies favorable to the labor organization.

The American Federation of Teachers, which advocated for school lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, paid $3,500 in "honorary expenses" to subsidize Su’s speech at the National Council for Occupational Safety & Health’s annual meeting on Dec. 6, 2023, according to lobbying disclosures. Su bragged in her speech about the Labor Department’s "record number" of workplace safety citations and pledged to "unleash our full power to protect working people."

While the union’s funding for executive branch events is legal, it could raise conflict of interest concerns for Su, who faced scrutiny earlier this year over meetings with union leaders weeks before the Department of Labor enacted union-backed regulations regarding independent contractors, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Republicans have opposed Su over her mismanagement of the California unemployment system when she served as the state’s labor secretary. Though Su has not received enough Senate support to confirm her to a permanent post, President Joe Biden reappointed her to the "acting secretary" role last year.

On Jan. 10, Su joined American Federation of Teachers officials at the AFL-CIO Tech Summit in Las Vegas to discuss "bargaining essential protections into our union contracts" and other labor issues, according to social media posts of the event. Su met two days later with union executive vice president Evelyn DeJesus, this time at a union conference in Alabama, where Su "reafirm[ed] her commitment with Latino and Immigrant workers," according to social media posts and Su’s work calendars.

On March 6, Su appointed American Federation of Teachers vice president Jan Hochadel to serve on the Department of Labor’s apprenticeship advisory commission. The following month, the American Federation of Teachers hosted a conference for Su, members of Congress, and a group of domestic health care workers.

On April 23, Su convened a White House meeting that included Weingarten, the teachers' union president, to hammer out an initiative to pressure private equity firms to invest in union-friendly companies. The Wall Street Journal editorial board said the meeting presented a conflict of interest for Su and noted that Weingarten has long supported a "push for government worker pension funds to boycott private-equity and hedge-fund managers who donate to charter schools."

The American Federation of Teachers paid expenses to several other organizations to host federal officials and members of Congress, according to the organization’s lobbying disclosures.

The union paid $5,000 in "honorary expenses" for appearances by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Jonathan Jackson (D., Ill.) at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual convention last year. It gave $30,000 and $62,400 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, respectively, for galas that featured President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, several Cabinet officials, and members of Congress.

The Department of Labor and American Federation of Teachers did not respond to requests for comment.