Lena Gonzalez knows all about the union movement. Her father, Vince, worked as a crane operator among other duties as a member of Teamsters Local 952 and later Local 166 for some three decades until he retired two years ago. Now, she’ll be taking that knowledge to Sacramento, where she will be sworn in tomorrow as a member of the California state Senate.
Gonzalez, currently a Long Beach City Council member, won her special election last week to represent the 33rd District, which includes parts of Long Beach, Los Angeles and other surrounding cities. The long-time friend of labor garnered nearly 70 percent of the vote in her victory. She emerged as the top Democrat during the earlier primary, when 12 candidates from different parties were on the ballot.
The process, she admitted, was “grueling.” She began her run just before Thanksgiving, when she decided to throw her hat in the ring to succeed former state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), who won his race for state insurance commissioner in November. She won in large part due to the strong backing she received from labor unions like the Teamsters.
Now, she is going to turn her attention towards helping workers in the Golden State. Gonzalez said there is a need to address income inequality in California, given its high cost of living. In an effort to raise wages, she said additional job training is needed.
“I would like to dig into vocational fields,” Gonzalez said. “Right off the bat, these could potentially pay.”
She is also in favor of expanding the use of union labor across the state, especially in areas such as construction and infrastructure. “These are the jobs that are needed,” she said. “They are timeless and they keep the state growing.”