Friends, in the past few weeks there have been questions about my loyalties to organized labor and my allyship towards union workers.
Yes, I am sorry I crossed a picket line and spoke at a graduation at UC Riverside. I was told of the strike by AFSCME with little notice, and I made the decision to go forward. When I first responded to this issue a few weeks ago, I gave my reasons for the decision: that I wished to give those young adults and their proud families the sense of accomplishment and congratulations that I, coming from a family where graduation is taken seriously, once enjoyed with my own working-class parents, including my father who was a shop steward in a union. My parents were a reason I wanted to give that speech, but they also should have been a reason not to. While these are the reasons for my decision that day, they are not justifications, nor excuses.
I wish to sincerely apologize to AFSCME, to UC workers still fighting to this day, and to all union members and delegates who feel betrayed by my mistake. After speaking with many allies within labor and looking inward at the reasons I gave for crossing the picket line, I wish I would have spoken on the line itself and joined in solidarity. While my speech may have been an encouragement to the students, it was at the expense of the workers. I understand, and regret the disrespect. I want to thank my allies in organized labor for their time and honesty on this matter.
I now wish to prove that I will be a Chair open to labor and members who call this Party home. I do hope that this one mistake, and the false narrative taking advantage of it, will not undermine my long public career as a voice for labor.
When I was the Superintendent of Public Instruction I lifted the morale of the California Department of Education (CDE) by meeting with our staff (unionized, of course) and listening to their advice, taking their recommendations for improving our work environment, and streamlining our bureaucracy. I worked with our state employee union representatives to maintain high morale in the CDE. As a legislator I stood with labor on every key vote. I wrote legislation cracking down on Unlicensed Contractors, and let us be clear, there never was an unlicensed contractor that used union labor. Prior to that, I had an excellent relationship with our Union City Employee Unions when I was on the City Council.
I was raised in a union family. My father was the shop steward for the Machinists union, and I knew how important that was to our working class family; that is why when I was a community college instructor, I was excited to join the CFT, even though I was not required to as I was only part-time.
My grandfather was a Teamster in San Francisco delivering bread when they drove teams of horses; when he retired and bought a bar he joined the bartender’s union, even though, as an owner, he did not have to. I was brought up to believe in the power of unions to uplift the working class and change lives. My brother was in the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union and later was a Teamster.
I want to be clear -- look at my record. Your vote is your own, and I respect that, but if you choose not to support me I hope it is not because someone convinced you that I do not stand with and support unions. It has been a hallmark of my political career.
I accept responsibility for my mistake. Every candidate for office should be willing to apologize and commit to doing better As Chair, I cannot say I won't ever make a mistake but, if I do, I will be transparent and honest about it. I hope to hear from all delegates who continue to fight for the working class and know that I will as well.