SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California labor unions representing workers in manufacturing, retail, grocery stores, hospitality, health care and other businesses announced their support Tuesday for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as he faces a likely recall election.
The California Labor Federation delivered the endorsement on behalf of 2.1 million workers and 1,200 affiliated unions on the steps of the Capitol, blasting the recall and Newsom's competitors as “anti-worker."
The news conference aimed to show unity among organized labor after the new president of SEIU Local 1000, the largest union that represents state workers, said it would not support the governor under his leadership. The union's board of directors scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss a $1 million donation to Newsom, ahead of Richard Louis Brown taking office as president later this month.
Art Pulaski, head of the labor federation, said he wouldn't second-guess Brown's comments, but said “he may come around at some point." SEIU Local 1000 is part of the California Labor Federation, and the broader SEIU California State Council endorsed Newsom last week.
Pulaski and leaders of the federation's affiliated unions said Newsom kept workers safe during the pandemic by distributing personal protective equipment and, more recently, helping essential workers access vaccinations. They praised him for signing legislation that required workplaces to report outbreaks and expanding paid sick leave for people who contracted coronavirus.
They warned a recall would roll back worker rights and remove an ally to organized labor from the governor's office.
“It makes no sense to attack the one person who gets up every day with the intent of keeping the state safe and keep it moving forward,” said Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW Local 8, which represents supermarket and drug store workers.
Republican candidates running include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Congressman Doug Ose, businessman John Cox and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. The unions broadly blasted the field as “anti-worker” but provided few specifics on each candidates’ policy positions on labor and pay issues.
Cox charged Newsom's pandemic policies were bad for workers. “The truth is Gavin Newsom did more to hurt workers than any governor in history when he closed California down and kept it closed. Millions of people lost their jobs," he said in a statement.
After sitting out traditional campaigning last year due to the pandemic, thousands of California Labor Federation members will be knocking on doors, talking to their neighbors and making the case in person that Newsom deserves to stay in office. Leaders said workers would spend their nights and weekends campaigning.
“Today's launch signifies the return of the ground game in California elections," Pulaski said. “This is where union members shine."
Pulaski said the effort will be aimed at persuading people who may be interested in a recall to stick with Newsom and on turning out voters who already support him. A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California showed 40% of people support removing Newsom from office. A majority of voters must approve his removal for a recall to succeed.
Recall supporters have their own army of volunteers. Organizers with little to no formal political training successfully gathered more than 1.7 million valid signatures to place the recall on the ballot, relying on volunteers across all 58 counties who stood on street corners and in parking lots collecting signatures throughout the summer and fall.
Orrin Heatlie, the leader of that movement, said recently that his volunteers were taking a much-needed break but they would soon be back out campaigning.
“They'll be handing out fliers and educating the public as to the reasons behind the recall, the need for a yes vote," he said.
A date for an election hasn't been set. People who signed a recall petition have another week to withdraw their names, then the state Department of Finance and Legislature must conduct and review cost estimates for an election. Then the lieutenant governor, also a Democrat, will set an election date.