Indian Solicitor in the US Department of Labor
Early last year she was believed to have quit under pressure of the then Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden the important post of the CEO of the Democratic National Committee, the top administrative position in the then main Opposition party. Washington Post said that she had to go as Biden wanted a person with more political experience than her in the post.
However, now as the President of the United States, the same Biden nominated her on March 26 as the Solicitor in the Department of Labor (DOL), the third-ranked position in the Department.
This is the story of the Indian –American civil rights lawyer and labour advocate Seema Nanda, whose dentist parents immigrated in early 1970s from Uttar Pradesh. Originally, the family hails from Punjab.
According to Bloomberg news, she would be the first person nominated for a DOL post to have experience at the department. Bloomberg adds that “Nanda’s familiarity with the department, assuming she earns the Senate’s blessing, could benefit Walsh [newly sworn-in Labor Secretary Marty Walsh] as he seeks to make gains on virus-response priorities, such as helping states process jobless benefits and protecting workers from on-the-job Covid-19 infection.”
As the No. 3 official at DOL, Nanda would wield considerable authority throughout the department. The Office of the Solicitor spearheads litigation under numerous labor and employment laws and advises department sub-agencies on regulations and policies on workplace issues such as wages, safety, and discrimination.
Nanda, 48, had also the rare distinction of being first Indian-American to be appointed as the CEO of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in June, 2018.
Her quitting under pressure never demoralised her. Nor for that matter she forsook faith in the ideals that the Democratic Party of the United States stood for. In fact, immediately after resigning, she vowed to fight for the “soul of the country and ensure the victory of Democrats in every corner of the US”.
She was proud of the fact of being the first Indian-American ever to be the Chief Executive Officer of either the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee.
In fact, the Democratic Party and former President Barack Obama had recognised Seema’s skills and rewarded her in many ways. Before becoming the CEO of the DNC, she served as Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Solicitor at the US Department of Labour in the Obama-Biden administration.
Earlier, she spent over 15 years in various roles as a labour and employment attorney, mostly in government service.
Seema led the now named Office of Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division where she served as a supervisor attorney in the Division of Advice at the National Labour Relations Board, and worked as an associate in private practice in Seattle.
After the Obama-Biden administration, when she went to become the CEO of the Democratic National Committee, she simultaneously served as COO and Executive Vice President at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Nanda was born in Chicago but grew up in Connecticut. She went to the Brown University and Boston College Law School. She has worked as a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labour and Worklife Programme. She is also a member of Massachusetts Bar Association.
Well-known as a civil rights and pro-immigration activist, she lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband and two teen-aged sons.
In an interview with then circulated India Abroad newspaper in 2018, Seema had argued that although not a political operative but more of a manager, she believed strongly that it’s “managers that create an environment that really bring out the best in the people and access all these talents that can really help organizations thrive.”