Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Monday announced she is resigning her 80th District seat for a leadership position at the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.
The San Diego Democrat's last day representing the district — which encompasses the southern part of San Diego and most of Chula Vista and National City — will be Wednesday.
In a statement to her Assembly colleagues during Monday's floor session, Gonzalez said she looks forward to continuing her efforts in organized labor after eight years with the 80th District. She said will be preparing to lead the 2.1 million-member state labor federation as its executive secretary-treasurer in July 2022.
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"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."
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Los Angeles, said her passion and work ethic would be missed in Sacramento.
"Lorena can be depended upon to stick to her commitments and to be absolutely forthright in expressing her values," Rendon tweeted. "Her devotion to the working people of California is unmatched.
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"She stood as a lightning rod on many issues, and I admired how she weathered the storms," he said. "Asm. Gonzalez has very understandable personal and professional reasons to make this change at this time, and I hope her colleagues and constituents will all join me in supporting her as she does so. We will miss her."
Gonzalez had a productive tenure in the Assembly, including passing legislation intended to secure sick leave for the state's workers, overtime for farm workers, protecting janitorial staff from sexual assault and providing basic labor protections to professional cheerleaders.
Perla Hernandez, a San Jose Burger King worker and leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union, released a statement on the assemblywoman.
"Throughout her career, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has been a champion for California's fast-food workers, standing with us in our historic fight for $15 and a union and standing up to big corporations who try to silence us," she wrote.
"As working people across California seize our power and demand a seat at the table, Assemblywoman Gonzalez is the right person at the right time to build a worker-powered movement to secure racial and economic justice for every Californian."
In 2019, Gonzalez passed AB 5, a law intended to protect workers against misclassification and wage theft, and one that has drawn particular ire from right wing-leaning organizations since it went into law.
In 2021, she passed legislation to ensure employers in California can be criminally prosecuted and sent to prison for engaging in intentional wage theft, and authored the nation's first law establishing worker protections against Amazon's warehouse production quotas.
Additionally, Gonzalez became the first Latina to chair the Assembly Appropriations Committee and oversaw the deliberations of 14 suspense files since 2016. She was the longest serving chair of that committee. Gonzalez also served as chairwoman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus in 2019-20.
"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. "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 announced in August that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which her husband, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher, described as stage 0, but was "also aggressive and hormone positive" and required "aggressive treatment" because her mother developed breast cancer at age 44 and died at age 62.
In September, Lorena Gonzalez announced she had returned home after undergoing a bilateral mastectomy and there is "no cancer left."
Gonzalez at the time described herself as "exhausted and sore" and "hopeful." She tweeted that she was "eternally grateful to the world's best husband /caretaker who hasn't left my side,"
Another factor in her decision may have been the recent redistricting, which has placed Gonzalez into the 79th Assembly District with freshman legislator Dr. Akilah Weber, D-La Mesa, who took the office in a special election in April. Gonzalez has also served eight years in the Assembly. Legislators in that body are legally restricted to 12 years over a lifetime.
In November, conservative group Reform California filed an ethics complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission demanding an immediate investigation and enforcement actions be taken against Gonzalez following a Politico story with "employment negotiations" between her and the California Labor Federation.
"While she should have been serving only the interest of her constituents, Lorena Gonzalez has broken all ethical norms by negotiating a sweetheart employment opportunity with a powerful special interest group while doing their bidding in the Assembly," said Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California.
Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Gonzalez was a labor leader, attorney and organizer, serving as the first woman and first person of color to be elected CEO and secretary-treasurer for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
In Gonzalez' former district, former San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez has announced her campaign for Assembly.
"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," Gomez said.
"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," she said.