By Sheri Williams
Though the pandemic continued to put workers at risk in 2022, union members fought for and won many important battles during the year.
No victories were more crucial to working families than those won at the ballot box in November. On the national front, union members helped to push back far-right candidates who threatened to roll back rights for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community. Instead, union members knocked on doors and made phone calls for candidates who uphold democratic, inclusive values—helping to elect union-backed candidates across the country.
In Sacramento, union members helped elect Karina Talamantes and Caity Maple to the Sacramento City Council, adding to a council that already has proven itself a friend to Labor under the leadership of Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
Dawnté Early won her race in West Sacramento, as did Mayor Martha Guerrero, who ran unopposed. They will join Mayor Pro-Tem Quirina Orozco and Norma Alcala on the City Council, making it entirely female—a first for the city.
Labor also saw exciting changes at the state level.
Lorena Gonzalez was elected and sworn in as the new Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation in July, marking the start of her leadership as chief advocate for California’s workers and their unions or the unions they want to join.
Gonzalez, formerly the Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council before serving nine years in the California State Assembly, became the first woman and person of color to lead the statewide federation.
A longtime champion of working families, Gonzalez will lead the 2.1 million-member Federation’s staff and its 1,200 affiliated unions in the advocacy of the Golden State’s workers and their rights at the workplace. Chief among those workplace rights for Gonzalez is the right for co-workers to come together to join a union and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
“The most direct way we can truly improve the lives of Californians is to empower them at work,” Gonzalez said. “Every political election won or pro-worker policy signed into law is a step toward that goal and those will remain a focus for the California Labor Movement, but neither of those have the immediate, positive impact on a worker’s life like a union contract. This Labor Movement is going to be laser-focused on organizing workers, fighting for their rights to join a union, and kicking ass until they have the full protection of a union contract.”
The year also saw a surge of union energy across the state and nation. Workers at Amazon and Starbucks led important campaigns to bring representation to their industries. In California, fast food workers helped pass legislation that will give them a seat at the table to improve working conditions and pay.
In December, inspired by the Starbucks drive, workers at two Peet’s Coffee stores in Davis filed to unionize.