Barrera Will Lead Labor Council, Remain On School Board
San Diego Schools trustee Richard Barrera will take the helm at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. He will replace outgoing leader Lorena Gonzalez, who is headed to the State Assembly after Tuesday’s special election.
Barrera plans to keep his seat on San Diego Unified’s Board of Education despite being picked to head the local coalition of unions that includes the San Diego Education Association, the district’s teachers union.
Barrera has worked in community and union organizing during his entire five-year tenure on the board, most recently for the California Nurses Association. He said the state’s budget woes have meant making decisions that were unpopular with unions in the past.
“There will, of course, continue to be those situations from time to time where I have to guard the interest of the district, of the kids, of the taxpayers, of the citizens of San Diego. And that’s got to be my first priority and it will always be my first priority,” he said.
Barrera plans to recuse himself from voting on school board matters the Labor Council takes a position on, but said he sees the work he'll do with the council as aligned with his work on the school board.
"What it's really about is building support for working families in our region," he said. "Including, of course, working families who have kids in our school district."
It isn’t unusual for part-time elected officials to have politically-oriented second jobs, said San Diego State Political Science Professor Brian Adams. And Barrera trying to put too much distance between himself and labor issues that come before schools trustees would cause its own problems for a five-member board.
“If he’s recusing himself from multiple votes or frequent votes, that could be a real problem in terms of (how) you may get many two-two votes where the board is deadlocked,” Adams said.
State conflict of interest laws apply to votes where elected officials would get direct personal financial gain, so they likely would not apply to Barrera. But that doesn't mean it won't appear "unseemly" when he votes on matters related to the district's employ unions, Adams said.