August 11, 2019

Video: Margaret Brent Award recipient Julie Su

Julie Su is a daughter of Chinese immigrants who became a nationally recognized expert on workers’ rights and civil rights. Like many children of immigrants, she said, she grew up translating for her parents. 

“As I grew up,” she said, “I realized that law is really a language, and those who speak it get to decide who gets what in our society – who gets to vote, marry, work, march in the streets, cross the borders, and who doesn’t.” She said she became a lawyer “to become a translator of the language of law for those who are marginalized, discriminated against and exploited.” Su was appointed secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency in 2019 by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Previously, she was California labor commissioner and is former litigation director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California. In 1995, Su was among the lead counsels in a federal lawsuit to hold brand-name garment manufacturers and retailers liable for using slave labor to manufacture their clothing. In 2001, she won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for her innovative work as a workers’ rights and civil rights advocate.

Top story: ABA bestows Brent Award on 5 notable California women lawyers