Los Angeles Union-Friendly Candidates Lose Races
On Tuesday, labor saw two of their candidates lose important races.
In Long Beach, 7th District City Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga lost her seat to a younger opponent, James Jones. Uranga had been a key ally to unions trying to gain political power in that city. Union members from Los Angeles had been sent to Long Beach to canvas for Uranga, but they faced an uphill battle in a city where business interest take priority at council meetings.
Jones, 32, ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, while Uranga focused her campaign on creating more jobs in Long Beach. Unions and labor-friendly coalitions were pushing for many months to get Uranga, a write-in candidate, to move their agenda forward and pass a ‘living wage’ ordinance for hotel workers in that city. Uranga has been no stranger at hotel worker rallies in the past year.
Another woman who lost her bid for higher office was Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn. Hahn ran against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the democratic primary for California lieutenant governor.
Hahn has been a very labor-friendly politician who boasts about her record of helping to pass a ‘living wage’ ordinance for hotel workers near the Los Angeles International Airport. She has also been very involved in supporting the Teamsters’ campaign to organize port truck drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
But Hahn’s record with the unions didn’t get her the votes she needed to beat Newsom. Her popularity seems to be limited to Los Angeles.
But labor groups have had victories in the past that are bound to pay off. Before becoming U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis had enjoyed the support of unions for her bids to the California State Assembly, the State Senate, then later on to the US Congress. The labor movement has been gaining momentum in Los Angeles during recent years and their ability to mobilize union members to help elect politicians like Hahn and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been unprecedented.
But the lost opportunities to have an ally like Hahn in Sacramento and a more progressive councilwoman in Long Beach raises the question of, how much longer will labor be able to fight for their candidates?
With Gubernatorial Candidate Meg Whitman facing off the Democratic Jerry Brown, and with Carly Fiorina eager to take Barbara Boxer’s seat, California will be a fun state to monitor this November. It’s unclear how involved labor will get in those elections since it concentrates more in local races, but this would be a great opportunity for the movement to show if its muscle is getting stronger or if it’s weakening.
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