Lorena Gonzalez, the San Diego-area Assemblywoman who successfully pushed landmark legislation to reclassify many California independent contractors as employees, is leaving the Capitol to run the California Labor Federation.
Gonzalez, 50, will become the group’s executive officer when the current leader, long-time chief Art Pulaski, retires this summer after serving 25 years as the top executive. The Labor Fed is a coalition of scores of labor organizations representing about 2.1 million union members.
Gonzalez made the announcement during the opening Monday of the 2022 legislative session.
Gonzalez “lives and breathes union values every day,” Pulaski said in a written statement. “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.”
The Labor Fed’s Executive Council, the 50-member group that guides the federation, said its intent is to have Gonzalez succeed Pulaski on July 1
Gonzalez, the chair of the influential Assembly Appropriations Committee in 2016 — the first Latina to hold that position — has served in the Assembly’s 80th District since May 2013, when she won a special election to replace Assemblymember Ben Hueso.
Her most visible legislation included AB5, which gave many people who were working as independent contractors the rights of full employees, which entails greater access to job-benefits, including overtime and heath care. The bill rewrote key elements of California labor law and prompted well-financed opposition from business interests.
Gonzalez also boosted legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — roughly double the federally sanctioned minimum wage level — and she pushed bills expanding sick leave for workers and overtime pay for farm workers.
Her AB 748, which was signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown requires school districts to test their drinking water for lead, and another controversial measure she championed requires school children to be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption.
In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Gonzalez’s bill to curb deceptive recycling practices and another measure forcing food-delivery apps to disclose hidden fees. The month before, Newsom signed Gonzalez’s bill regulating law enforcement’s use of rubber bullets and tear gas.
Gonzalez, a graduate of Stanford University, Georgetown and the UCLA Law School, was a senior adviser to former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. She has also served as an appointee on the State Lands Commission, and as an alternate member of the California Coastal Commission.