(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden intends to nominate Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su to lead the department, the White House announced Tuesday. 

Su would become the first Asian American Cabinet secretary in Biden’s administration. She would replace Marty Walsh, who is leaving his post and is expected to become the head of the National Hockey League players’ union. 

“Julie is a champion for workers, and she has been a critical partner to Secretary Walsh since the early days of my Administration,” Biden said in a statement. 

Su, 54, led California’s labor department before joining the Biden administration. The Senate must vote to confirm her, and Biden urged the chamber to “take up this nomination quickly.”

Su is broadly seen as supportive of labor rights, spending nearly two decades as a civil-rights attorney advocating for worker protections. As California’s Labor Commissioner earlier in her career, she went after companies for wage theft, and later — as the most populous state’s labor secretary — worked closely with unions and companies on jobs training.

She is expected to receive the support of progressives in the Senate, as well as Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers and advocacy groups who urged Biden to nominate her. 

“I’m confident Julie Su will be an excellent Secretary of Labor. I look forward to working with her to protect workers’ rights and build the trade union movement in this country,” Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a stalwart on the left, said in a statement. 

If confirmed, Su would also increase the number of women serving in Biden’s cabinet. She is expected to lead the department on an acting basis until the Senate takes up her nomination. 

Some congressional Republicans warned Biden against appointing Su to the role, saying she oversaw “destructive” labor policies while leading the California labor department. The Senate voted 50-47 along party lines in 2021 to confirm her as deputy labor secretary. 

Su is expected to inherit some tough challenges, including an months-long negotiation over a new contract for workers at West Coast ports. She played a role on the team that intervened in negotiations between freight railroads and unions last year in order to avert a painful work stoppage. 

She has also worked on a number of other key issues, including cracking down on trafficked workers, the minimum wage and a Labor Department initiative to provide information to workers and employers about improving pay and curbing harassment. 

–With assistance from Katia Dmitrieva and Erik Wasson.

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