Fletcher endorsement reveals labor rift

Lorena Gonzalez blasted for endorsing Nathan Fletcher ahead of Labor Council meeting

Lorena Gonzalez
Lorena Gonzalez

The head of the local American Federation of Teachers has issued a blistering open letter to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that blasts her endorsement of Nathan Fletcher in San Diego's mayoral race.

Jim Mahler, president of the AFT Guild Local 1931 representing San Diego, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges said her endorsement of Fletcher earlier this week "not only undermines the Labor Council and the progressive coalition you worked hard to build during your tenure with the Labor Council, but it also calls into question your own political judgement and integrity."

Mahler also charges that Gonzales, D-San Diego, used her time as head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council as stepping stone to the Assembly post she was elected to earlier this year and that she endorsed former Mayor Bob Filner last fall even though she was aware of allegations of sexual harassment against him.

The Labor Council was meeting late Friday afternoon and evening to decide who to endorse in the Nov. 19 special election to replace Filner, who resigned effective Aug. 30. Freshman City Councilman David Alvarez, who announced Thursday he is entering the mayor's race, was considered the favorite to get the labor council's endorsement.

Gonzalez said she was "repulsed" by Mahler's commentary.

“I have too much respect for community college teachers and staff in San Diego County to really express how repulsed I am with Mr. Mahler’s efforts to bully me through insults and outright lies," she said in a statement issued from her office in Sacramento. "He is entitled to his own political opinions, but not his own facts. I know he has a job to do and he disagrees with me, but I am not his puppet. I stand by my service to the working people of the San Diego region, my record at the Labor Council, and my endorsement of Nathan Fletcher.”

Below is the full text of Mahler's letter dated Friday followed by the full text of Gonzalez' open letter to the organized labor community regarding her endorsement of Fletcher:

Dear "Sister" Gonzalez,

Words cannot express how disappointed I felt to read your message (pasted in below) endorsing Nathan Fletcher for Mayor. One would never know by reading your message that just 3 1/2 months ago you served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.

In one fell swoop, your public endorsement of Nathan Fletcher not only undermines the Labor Council and the progressive coalition you worked hard to build during your tenure with the Labor Council, but it also calls into question your own political judgment and integrity.

You were the one who implored us for years to "remain united" and not to "get out in front of" the Labor Council and its endorsement process. You were the one who insisted that all affiliates remain neutral until the Labor Council process was complete. And it was you who understood better than anyone that the price to pay for failing to maintain a united front was that labor would become divided, and hence less powerful, as a result. Yet, you now have used your "early endorsement" to deftly accomplish that which we were always struggling to avoid–a schism within labor, in order to obtain your own personal goal of electing your close friend Nathan Fletcher.

For a long time now you have made it clear that you support Nathan Fletcher. It started during the last campaign for Mayor when Fletcher was the Republican candidate (and possibly even much further back than that).

You will easily recall that I was the most vocal critic on the Labor Council Executive Board of your mayoral primary plan to try to inflict as much damage as possible on DeMaio rather than support the Labor Council's endorsed candidate Filner. In hindsight it is clear that your agenda was always to clear the field in order to get Fletcher into the run-off, not to increase Filner's chances of being elected.

Furthermore, it now seems clear that your efforts to convince Filner to run in the first place were not motivated by a concern for the interest of labor in San Diego, but instead by your own political ambitions. Getting Filner to run opened up his congressional seat, which Vargas easily won, which opened up Vargas's senate seat, which Hueso then easily won, which then opened up Hueso's assembly seat, which, surprise, you ended up winning! How about that!

You will also recall that when you first took the Labor Council job you were conflicted between running for the Assembly at that time, or running for Secretary-Treasurer of the Labor Council. Although you ultimately chose the Labor Council position, your desire had always been to run for the Assembly. Your Labor Council stint was apparently just a bump in the road for you.

And what makes all of this surreal saga even more Machiavellian is the fact that you apparently were well aware of Filner's indiscretions with women before the Labor Council even endorsed him for Mayor yet you remained silent throughout the entire campaign. The fact that it was none other than your brother who organized the first press conference bringing Filner's transgressions to light and calling for his resignation is clearly no coincidence.

In your endorsement of Fletcher you note that he assisted local janitors in winning healthcare benefits. To you this is evidence of his support for labor, but the fact that this action was taken in the weeks before a closely contested mayoral primary seems like stronger evidence that Fletcher was motivated by political calculations and a desire to stake out a position to the left of DeMaio and perhaps peel off some labor support from Filner. We can certainly argue about Fletcher’s motivations, but this fact is not in dispute: Nathan Fletcher has a lifetime 18% voting record on labor issues. That means he has voted against labor 82% of the time he has had the chance.

As the former Secretary-Treasurer of the Labor Council, any reasonable person would conclude that would be enough evidence for you to not support a candidate with this voting record for any office. The fact that you are purposely choosing to ignore this fact, in addition to his terrible record on the environment, women's issues, education, etc., and to then give him your endorsement defies all logic and common sense.

And to add insult to injury, your calculated efforts to undermine the same Labor Council you led only months ago by virtue of your early endorsement quite frankly makes me seriously question if all the years of hard work were only done to achieve your own personal & political gains.

You have been a friend to labor in the past, and I hope you will continue to support labor in the future, but your recent actions lead me to seriously question your commitment to this cause. I am not sure why you address me as “Brother” since you don’t appear to be a member of my labor family anymore.

Sincerely,

Jim Mahler, President

AFT Guild, Local 1931

San Diego & Grossmont-Cuyamaca

Community Colleges

Here is Gonzalez' Thursday letter regarding her backing of Fletcher:

Brothers and Sisters,

Later today, I will be endorsing Nathan Fletcher at a press conference in San Diego, but I want to first share with you why I've made this decision.

There was one experience that I had with Nathan Fletcher that absolutely defined the way I came to view him, and explains why I am fully supporting him to become our next Mayor.

Last year, just weeks before the Mayoral primary, I was working with our local janitors in an effort to secure a contract that earned them healthcare benefits. In particular, we were focusing on the bio-tech community and the companies that serviced their buildings. After weeks of negotiations, pickets, hunger strikes and press conferences, we knew we needed someone who could speak directly with the CEOs of the companies.

The only person I knew who had those relationships was Nathan Fletcher. The problem was, we had endorsed against him in the Mayor’s race.

Nonetheless, I called him and asked for his help on behalf of the hard working immigrants who clean our buildings. He listened, was thoughtful, and despite being in the midst of a contentious campaign, spent hours getting briefed, calling business leaders and eventually nudging the talks along to help settle the dispute and secure healthcare for these low-wage workers.

Nathan didn’t have to do it. He was extremely busy and we were spending our weekends walking precincts for the other guy. He wasn’t going to get credit: It was too close to the election for campaign purposes. He did it because he knew it was the right thing to do on behalf of the workers. At that moment, I saw the character and values we seek out in any political candidate: compassion, justice, and the unquenchable commitment to accomplish what he says he will do.

To be honest, this alone would probably be enough for me to lean towards supporting Nathan. But, it wasn’t the only time I saw those qualities. Earlier this year, we were asked to build an unlikely coalition of business leaders, labor, clergy and law enforcement to lobby on behalf of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Once again, I sought help from Nathan. Without hesitation, he not only signed on, but organized and chaired one of the most diverse coalitions in the nation, and continues to be a loud and powerful voice on behalf of immigrants.

I admit, during his first few years in office -- when he was a Republican -- I discounted even asking Nathan to vote on progressive and pro-worker legislation. But, when I began to work with him on a variety of issues, I found him to be open and willing to listen, with a sense of compassion and justice. He was there when we asked him to vote to strengthen farm worker protections and to provide warehouse workers with organizing rights. He supported our homeowners' bill of rights and promoted Governor Brown's plan for tax fairness.

Nathan evolved into a forward looking legislator who, the more he learned about economic justice issues, the better champion he became. I appreciated his honesty, his character and his immense growth.

I want our next Mayor of San Diego to continue to pursue a vision that puts neighborhoods and people first, someone who values hard work and good jobs and someone who can bring our City together by committing to correct the years of neglect and disproportionate service levels that we have received in under-served communities throughout San Diego.

I am confident the best person to do that is Nathan Fletcher. I hope you will join me in supporting him, or at least open yourself up to the possibility.

In solidarity,

Lorena