California Labor Federation chooses Lorena Gonzalez to lead

By Sheri Williams

The California Labor Federation announced in December that former state Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez will join the California Labor Federation team, to succeed longtime Labor icon Art Pulaski as its leader.

Gonzalez resigned her elected post days after the announcement, after serving in the Legislature for nearly a decade.

“This next step allows me to continue my life’s commitment to serve and empower California’s workers,” Gonzalez said on social media shortly after the announcement. “Within the last week, I have been presented this wonderful opportunity to continue my life’s work: Pushing for the most amount of good for the most amount of people.”

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 Labor Federation said in a statement. Gonzalez has been a leader in virtually every piece of Labor legislation passed in recent years, including championing the landmark Assembly Bill 5, which forced gig companies to properly classify workers as employees.

Gonzalez served for the 80th Assembly District in San Diego since 2013. In 2016, she helped pass legislation that raised the minimum wage in California, reaching $15 an hour this year. She has also fought for farmworkers rights, equal pay for women, especially women of color, and a myriad of other issues to benefit workers and their families.

Prior to running for office, Gonzalez was a Labor leader in San Diego. She is the daughter of an immigrant farmworker and a nurse, raised by her single mother. She graduated from Stanford University and UCLA School of Law. She is known for her outspokenness.

“I’m really direct, and people who don’t deal with me a lot think I’m being mean,” Gonzalez told media recently. “Being direct doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It just means I’m going to tell you exactly how I feel while I feel it.”

In her new role, 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, as the pandemic continues to take a toll on essential workers.

Upon Pulaski’s anticipated retirement in July, the Federation Executive Council announced its intent to have Gonzalez succeed Pulaski as Chief Officer of the Federation. A formal vote by the Council will occur upon Pulaski’s retirement. Pulaski has served as Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer since 1996. Under his leadership, the California labor movement grew by 500,000 members, and he spearheaded monumental victories for working people, including paid family leave and a record minimum wage increase.

“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,” said Pulaski. “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.”