Lorena Gonzalez resigns from Assembly, returns to labor roots
Speaker 1: (00:00)
A shift in leadership is coming to California's labor Federation and California's assembly just yesterday. Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez announced her resignation from the assembly as she takes a position with the labor Federation here to discuss the change is UC San Diego political science professor Thad cower, tha welcome,
Speaker 2: (00:19)
Happy new year Jade, happy
Speaker 1: (00:20)
New year. So, uh, Lorena Gonzalez announced her resignation from the assembly yesterday. Uh, were you surprised at all?
Speaker 2: (00:27)
Well, this is huge news for the state legislature for the labor movement in California and for San Diego politics. Uh, but it's not a giant surprise as this is actually Lorena Gonzales turning back to her roots. Right? When she, uh, came to prominence, it was as the leader of the San Diego county labor Federation. She has been the leader in labor legislation at the statewide level, pushing for things like paid sick leave, uh, over time for, uh, for agricultural workers, making the gig economy, workers being part of the, uh, of the, of the normal employment system. So, so this was in some ways logical next step for her.
Speaker 1: (01:07)
And she'll be heading the California labor Federation beginning, July. Tell us more about the state labor Federation.
Speaker 2: (01:13)
Yeah. So this is one of the, the, the two biggest labor groups, the other being the S C I U in California. And so I think what this does is it gives Lorena Gonzal the way, uh, two levers to, to make an impact on, on working people's lives, which has been her, her driving focus, right? One, it has more than 2 million members. So, so the leader is negotiating all of these, uh, agreements, right. Uh, and doing collective bargaining on behalf of all of those different workers. And also it's a major player in California politics, a group that's that's in many ways, a king maker, um, helping to, to elect labor friendly legislators to Sacramento.
Speaker 1: (01:50)
So given that does, uh, Lorena Gonzalez hold more power as an assembly member or working for the, the labor Federation?
Speaker 2: (01:58)
I think you can view this as a promotion. It's probably not the promotion that she wanted, uh, Lorena Gonzalez, or was clearly planning to run for secretary of state in 2022, when, uh, when Dr. Shirley Weber got that appointment, when Alex Padilla was elevated to the us Senate, she'd lost that, uh, that potential goal. But what she's done is found another way after, uh, when term limits had, had limited her time in Sacramento to continue to a powerful voice, uh, on the issue that is labor, which has been the, the driving factor in her public life.
Speaker 1: (02:31)
There was more than just this new position that likely played a role in her decision to resign from the assembly. Tell us about that.
Speaker 2: (02:38)
Well, I think the, the big looming factor that caused this really kind of career shift for Loren's was term limits. So we haven't talked a lot about term limits in the last few years in California, because a, a change to them passed in 2012 gave people 12 years in office. That meant that her clock was ticking as of 2024. So she could have tried to run in a, in a new district trying to take on another democratic incumbent, uh, Dr. Aquila Weber, but she would've just, if she'd won that race, she would've been an immediate lame duck termed out in the next election and, and likely out of power from her prominent committee role in Sacramento. So because of those looming term limits, she needed to get, go somewhere else. And, and this is where she landed. And
Speaker 1: (03:21)
In the face of all this, she's also faced some health challenges
Speaker 2: (03:24)
Too. Right, right. She, she had, uh, surgery, uh, for breast cancer. And so I think, you know, that also the grind of an everyday legislative sessions flying up to Sacramento and back, uh, that this may be, uh, this job may provide some welcome respite for that at a time when she's faced over the past six months, uh, a tremendous health challenge. And
Speaker 1: (03:44)
You mentioned some of her accomplishments as a lawmaker. What were some of Gonzales' most notable to you? Well,
Speaker 2: (03:51)
I think the, the, the biggest ones were, were focused on labor, right? As the sick leave, the gig economy, bill that then became the focus of a huge proposition. And now was that, which was then overturned in a court case that is still, uh, a book yet to be written, but it could mean that all Lyft, Uber drivers, uh, you know, food delivery workers and, and a whole range of other employees are granted, uh, benefits in California. That's a, a huge accomplishment. Although some parts of it are up in air, and she was also engaged in really on the ground, detailed things like, uh, providing subsidies for, for people purchasing diapers, uh, making sure the tampons weren't text, she wasn't afraid to Wade in, into these, uh, these issues that, that weren't as prominent the national level, but, but really mattered for, for everyday Californians. So how,
Speaker 1: (04:40)
How will Lorena Gonzalez seat be filled?
Speaker 2: (04:43)
Well, that's not quite clear yet. Uh, there may potentially be a special election, but it could be consolidated with the next primary election. What we do know is that there are a lot of people want this seat and our jumping in to, to, to, to try to capture what would likely be a safe democratic seat for another 12 years for whoever could capture it. Hmm.
Speaker 1: (05:05)
And, and when the election for Gonzales' former seat is held, it will represent a different area because of redistricting. So how different are the districts, uh, new boundaries?
Speaker 2: (05:16)
Well, the, the numbers and the old districts at the assembly level have really changed in San Diego. So, so that the same number district that she represented will probably, uh, go in, into the hands of, uh, of Aquila Weber who holds a neighboring district. Uh, but that area that, uh, Chula Vista to south San Diego area will, will be up for grabs. We've already seen, I think George Georgia Gomez, the council member, uh, David Alvas, former city council member, uh, declare their to see for that area. Mm.
Speaker 1: (05:45)
All right. Very interesting. And something I'm sure we'll all keep our eyes on. I've been speaking with UC San Diego political science professor, Thad cower, Thad. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for having me.
On Monday, San Diego lawmaker Lorena Gonzalez announced her resignation from the California Assembly to lead the California Labor Federation.
Her last day in office will be Wednesday, Jan. 5.
The move is a return to the labor movement for Gonzalez. Before being elected to the Assembly to represent the 80th District, she was the CEO and Secretary-Treasurer for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
The Democratic lawmaker made the announcement during Monday afternoon’s floor session. She told colleagues she is looking forward to continuing her work for the working people of California after eight years in office.
"As a legislator and as a labor leader, my top priority has been to create opportunities that lead to more jobs, better jobs and better lives for working people," Gonzalez said. "It's been an honor to serve the people of San Diego County and the entire state as a lawmaker who tried to accomplish the most amount of good for the most amount of people."
Gonzalez was first elected to the Assembly in 2013 following a special election. Among her legislative achievements include bills that allowed part-time employees to earn sick leave, overtime pay for farm workers and labor protection for professional cheerleaders.
She also received backlash for some of her policies, including AB 5, which reclassified many gig workers as employees rather than independent contractors. The bill led to ride-sharing companies funding Proposition 22, which exempted companies such as Lyft and Uber from classifying drivers as employees.
"We've done a lot. But, the most direct way we can truly improve the lives of Californians is to empower them at work," Gonzalez said in a statement. "No law is ever as powerful as a union contract. It's in that spirit that I'm continuing my service to strengthen the Labor Movement in our Golden State."
Gonzalez is expected to succeed Art Pulaski, the Federation’s longtime leader who is retiring in July.