“Her long history with the labor movement combined with her legislative record of relentlessly championing the rights and protections of working people perfectly positions her to build on decades of success for workers led by the Federation and affiliated unions,” the AFL-CIO group said in a statement.
Gonzalez, recovering from breast cancer, faced a potential Democrat-vs.-Democrat race against first-term Assemblywoman Akilah Weber in a new district they share — the 79th. In her new job, Gonzalez will work alongside federation staff and Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski “to advance the federation’s 2022 agenda at a critical moment in labor’s history.”
In a series of tweets, Gonzalez, 50, listed her legislative accomplishments since her election in 2013, from raising the minimum wage to ensuring “every California has paid sick leave and expanding overtime laws to farmworkers.”
“We expanded workplace rights for grocery workers, hotel workers, warehouse workers, janitors and home healthcare workers, paramedics, nail technicians, construction workers, clerical staff, delivery drivers, gig workers, garment workers, disabled workers and more,” she said.
She said: “’First in the nation’ described countless laws we wrote pertaining to worker rights and more.”
She concluded: “We did a lot. But the only way to truly change the lives of working Californians is to empower them at work. No law is ever as powerful as a union contract. So, now, I will simply continue my service by singularly focusing on strengthening the labor movement.”
Minutes later, former San Diego City Council member Georgette Gómez announced her campaign for Assembly in Gonzalez’s 80th District.
Gómez said in a statement: “We’re facing incredible challenges and it’s more important than ever to elect leaders we can count on to put working people first, not special interests. I’m running to make a real difference for families struggling with healthcare, childcare, and skyrocketing housing costs, as well as build on Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s remarkable legacy. From expanding affordable housing to taking on corporate polluters to protect our health and climate, my life’s work has been fighting for a better San Diego for all and that’s what I’ll fight for in the state Assembly.”
On Dec. 21, former councilman (and San Diego mayor candidate) David Alvarez announced he would seek the 80th Assembly District seat.
Former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio crowed about her exit, noting in a tweet an ethics probe he demanded.
His PAC, Reform California, filed an ethics complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission demanding Gonzalez resign after a Politico story in October alleged “employment negotiations” between Gonzalez and the California Labor Federation.
“Gonzalez quickly took to Twitter after the story broke to claim she has not yet accepted the job — but provisions in the California Political Reform Act make that immaterial to whether she has run afoul of state ethics laws,” DeMaio’s site said.
The labor group’s Executive Council on Monday announced its intent to have Gonzalez succeed Pulaski as chief officer of the federation — representing 2.1 million members of 1,200 manufacturing, transportation, construction, service and public sector unions..
“A formal vote by the Council will occur upon Pulaski’s retirement,” the labor group said. “Pulaski has served as Federation executive secretary-treasurer since 1996.”
Said Pulaski: “I couldn’t think of a more qualified, passionate and committed leader to continue the critical advocacy of working people at the nation’s largest state federation of unions.
“Assemblymember Gonzalez lives and breathes union values every day. We couldn’t be more excited for Gonzalez’s return to the labor movement and look forward to her trademark tenacity on workers’ issues helping to advance the Federation’s pro-worker agenda for years to come.”
Gonzalez, who had been leader of the San Diego Imperial Labor Council, was elected in May 2013 to fill a seat vacated by Ben Hueso’s election to the state Senate on March 12, 2013.
The redistricting of state legislative seats wasn’t the first time Gonzalez found her political ambitions scrambled.
In February 2019, she announced a race for secretary of state — California’s top elections official. But in December 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom chose Assembly veteran Shirley Weber (Akila’s mother) as secretary of state after Secretary of State Alex Padilla was nominated will fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Michael Smolens wrote: “That the appointment went to Weber made for an awkward moment…. The two were seatmates at the start of their Assembly tenures — Weber took office in December 2012 and Gonzalez in May 2013.”
Gonzalez, the first Latina to chair the Assembly Appropriations Committee (since 2016), was raised by a single mother, a nurse.
“Her father immigrated to California from Mexico and initially worked in the strawberry fields in North San Diego County,” says her district bio. “Lorena is a graduate of Stanford University, has a master’s degree from Georgetown University, and a law degree from UCLA. She remains a member in good standing of the California State Bar.
“Lorena’s most cherished title, however, is that of mother and wife. She lives with her husband, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Together, they have a blended family with five children.”