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Julie Su, DOL, and the Death of Dreams

Dreams of better work rarely get public attention. True to form, the Senate hearing April 20th (1) on Julie Su’s nomination as Secretary of Labor ignored our dreams.

Working individuals dream of freedom, flexibility, controlling their time, creativity, ownership, earning more, working part-time, and working in retirement.

Thirty-million mothers of children under 18 (2) dream of part-time work that’s totally flexible on two-seconds notice, which won’t happen with any “regular” job. Ms. Su is committed to steps that eliminate this flexibility.

Unpaid family caregivers (3) are widely interested in flexible part-time work, since they often need an income that respects their top priority—continuing to provide care for loved ones as needed.

Self-employment and being employed by a friend nearby are two common ways caregivers squeeze a few hours of paid work into a busy schedule.

Over 53 million Americans are unpaid family caregivers, yet their dreams would be dashed by Julie Su.

Disabled individuals (4) dream of a work arrangement in which they can “accommodate” themselves, which means having freedom to schedule their work, create a supportive physical work environment, and chunk tasks into suitable blocks.

There are 61 million adults in the US with a disability, half of them over 65. Su was not asked, “What about them?”

Retirees often aim to develop part-time income to protect themselves from rising inflation (5).

With 49 million Americans receiving Social Security (6), perhaps half of them consider working part time or self-employed to calm their anxiety and realize their dreams of security.

More than 43 million Americans hold professional certificates or licenses (7) in fields like medical care, construction and safety. Restrictions usually require these individuals to maintain their licenses by staying employed without extended interruption, but many license holders dream of complying through self-employment.

Middle-aged and older individuals with highly specialized skills and experience, finding no potential employers within driving distance, dream of serving larger statewide, national or international markets through self-employment. They’re proficient and productive; if they are five percent of the workforce of 166 million (8), they number 8 million individuals, but Ms. Su didn’t mention their dreams.

Rural residents (9) occupy 97 percent of US land area and number 60 million people, perhaps 60 percent of whom – 36 million individuals – are of working age. Scarcity of rural employment choices didn’t arise in Ms. Su’s hearing.

Moonlighting (10), working a full-time and a part-time job, is already pursued by eight million people, who often earn one income as an employee and the other as self-employer. Perhaps half (four million) of those second incomes are self-employed. Every one of those second jobs arose from a dream of something better.

Anyone who’s heard, “You’re fired!” immediately dreams of new ways to generate income. Every year except 2020, 15-21 million Americans lose their employment (11).

When our job suddenly disappears, all we can think is, “What can I do? How fast can I earn money doing it?” Success in a crisis depends on dreaming under pressure.

College and high school students who have sparkling technical, analytic or media skills often dream of youthful success.

“Justin” in our neighborhood comes to mind. He’s a fifth grader who drops off flyers advertising his power-washing services by the hour. He suggested decks, walkways, autos, outdoor furniture. Bless his spirit!

There are 18 million college students in the US (12) and 16 million high school students (13). Never underestimate the dreams of teens who are given a chance.

Finally, intensely driven individuals dream of more income and control of their lives:

Start-up entrepreneurs such as consulting scientists, engineers, analysts.

Creative individuals intent on owning patents, copyrights and service marks to protect their creations.

Ambitious individuals who realize they can make twice as much money by freelancing and gain the freedom a boss will never give them.

Commuters who want to repurpose their drive time and make more money.

Labor regulators ignore the dreams of everyday people, a damaging weakness in our regulatory apparatus.

Imagine if an unwise appointment or “new rule” wipes out these American dreams of flexible, customized, enjoyable work – and crushes tens of millions of these individuals’ dreams.

Dreams of better work power our economy. If our regulators ignore our dreams, we will soon have no private enterprise. Is that what regulators want, the death of our dreams?

By Mike Hruby


Mike Hruby has been self-employed for more than 40 years, and leads New Jobs America, a 501c4 non-profit defending self-employment.

End Notes



5 INFLATION,year%20inflation%20rate%20was%205.0%2

6 RETIRED,to%2048.59%20million%20in%202022.

7 CERTIFICATES,over%20the%20past%2050%20years.


10 MOONLIGHTING,up%20at%20your%20day%20job.


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