OP-ED: Holding politicians accountable at election time
As we head into a heated election season, with the 2020 Democratic California Presidential Primary right around the corner, we can expect to hear politicians up and down the state repeating their talking points and pandering to different subsections of voters. Unfortunately, far too often these politicians are saying one thing and doing another.
When someone runs for office for the first time, it is hard to know if they will keep their campaign promises. But when someone is running for re-election, it is critical to examine the votes they have taken while in positions of power, and see if that lines up with their alleged principles, and with their promises.
Take Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, for example. She campaigned on being a champion for workers and working-class families. She constantly attempts to portray herself as a liberal advocate who fights to give additional rights and protections to those who need it.
But, when given the opportunity to give farm workers additional protections so their voices could be heard, she turned her back on those workers and voted against what was in their best interest.
While it is impossible to know what is in someone’s heart, thanks to campaign finance disclosures, we can know what is in someone’s campaign wallet.
And who were the single largest contributors to Assemblywoman Gonzalez-Fletcher? Big labor and union bosses.
As a long-time supporter of unions, I know they were critical to giving workers the necessary protections we have today, like a 40-hour work week and workplace safety precautions.
But since then, unions have spent more time trying to gain and peddle influence and less time representing workers.
You can see a clear example of this with the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. Since their peak, they’ve lost 90% of their membership. Currently, in California, they represent less than 1% of the agricultural workforce. And that is likely because of the shady tactics they use to try to retain power.
Not only did they UFW have to pay back more than $800,000 in wages to its own organizers, the UFW is facing another class action lawsuit for wage theft.
In another instance, in Fresno they disappeared from a farm for over two decades and returned and tried to force a contract on workers that would have lowered their take home pay. This contract was government-written, with no input or say from the workers themselves. Boldly, the workers organized a vote to decertify the union and successfully voted them off the farm with over 85% saying they didn’t want to be represented by the UFW.
When a legislator introduced reform measures to give farm workers more bargaining rights, such as not allowing the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to throw out union votes without judicial review, and ensuring workers had a say in a union contract before it was imposed on them, the UFW strongly opposed those measures.
And you know who also opposed these common sense reforms that would have given workers more protections and rights? Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher.
Maybe it is a coincidence. But I remain skeptical of any politician that campaigns as a pro-worker representative, but then opposes giving workers more rights after a few big checks from union bosses.
Thankfully, I am not the only one raising the alarm bells about the shady record of Gonzalez-Fletcher. Pick Justice Action recently announced that they were holding a sweepstakes that highlights this very record, working to ensure that Californians across the state are aware of the votes Gonzalez-Fletcher has taken that are bad for workers.
This election season, it is critical that we use this opportunity to hold our politicians accountable and call them out when they are not voting in the interest of the people, and are instead just representing their donors.
Elvira Moreno is a former Democratic elected official in Los Angeles County.