Labor Leader Elected Head of California Democratic Party

By Paul Burton

California Democratic Party (CDP) delegates elected Los Angeles labor leader Rusty Hicks as chairman of the state party at its convention in San Francisco June 2. Hicks is the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and was endorsed by dozens of labor unions and elected officials.

At a meeting of the party’s Labor Caucus on the convention’s opening night, Hicks told the 650-plus trade unionists the Democratic Party needed a champion who would fight for equal pay for equal work, pensions, health care and workers’ rights. “Labor has a great partnership with the Democratic Party,” Hicks said. “The party’s top priority should be grassroots organizing to create people-powered campaigns.” Hicks touted his leadership in campaigns for progressive policies – including protecting workers from wage theft and harassment, increasing the minimum wage to $15, promoting clean energy transit, and protecting immigrants. Hicks said he believes the CDP, “should be a leader in the resistance to Trump while working to elect Democrats – from school boards to the White House.”

Hicks received 57 percent of the vote, with Richmond activist Kimberly Ellis placing second with 36 percent and party vice chairman Daraka Larimore-Hall receiving 6 percent. After winning the election, Hicks said, “Coming out of the labor movement, I believe in the collective. I don’t believe in the individual. In order to see a change in the White House, we’re going to have to have a real change in the California Democratic Party, and that starts with us standing together tonight.”

Hicks also said he would implement policies to restore the party’s credibility in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment against former Chairman Eric Bauman, who resigned last fall. “We have to put in not only the culture that says that this is no longer tolerated, but also the systems that ensure that it never happens again,” Hicks said. “We have to have a system in which complaints can actually be lodged, that they are investigated by a third party and that we take clear and decisive action.”

The CDP Labor Caucus also featured updates from several union campaigns, as well as a report from California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski on labor’s successful campaigns in 2018 to elect Democrats to seats in Congress formerly held by Republicans, and by State Building Trades president Robbie Hunter on the success of apprenticeship programs and the need to lift the working class through good union jobs. Labor Caucus members also re-elected San Francisco Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Tim Paulson as Chair, Taisha Brown with SEIU 1000 as Vic-Chair, AFSCME Local 390 member Astrid Zunega Treasurer, and Bonnie Shatun with the California Teachers Association as Secretary.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pitched his candidacy for President to Labor Caucus members, while State Schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond spoke on behalf of California Senator Kamala Harris. All the major Democratic presidential candidates spoke at the convention over the weekend. The CDP will meet in November to consider endorsing a presidential candidate in the Democratic primary election to be held in March 2020. The theme of the CDP Organizing Convention was “Blue Wave Rolling.”  The CDP State Convention is the largest gathering of active Democrats from around the State. More than 3,400 delegates registered and over 5,000 people. including media and guests, attended.


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