When I first came to the Labor Council as political director in 2006, I was tasked with trying to get our Wal-Mart Supercenter Ban docketed at the City Council. Scott Peters was the Council President, and there just hadn't been a whole lot of interaction between organized labor and Scott previously. We supported another candidate against him, and the "belief" was that he wouldn't be there on the tough stuff. We just didn't have a relationship with him. I knew Scott from environmental issues previously and had met his wife when I sat on the board of Planned Parenthood. So, I decided to just go straight to him with our request for an ordinance to ban Supercenters.
Over breakfast, I made my case without taking a breath - talking about Wal-Mart's impact on the environment, their treatment of women, the suppression of wages and healthcare. After a few minutes, he interrupted me and simply stated, "I am with you." In shock, I spilled my coffee on him and then we began working on how to get it done. That was the first of many asks I brought to then-Council President Scott Peters on behalf of workers, and the answer was always the same, "I am with you. Let's get this done."
When I told him we wanted to expand the Living Wage Ordinance and give it some teeth by strengthening its enforcement mechanism, he called the Mayor's office and said they better meet with me to work out the language because it was going to be docketed and would pass. He was right. When the Mayor tried to jam through a super majority veto override before expanding the Council to 9 members, Scott empowered workers to have a seat at the table and demand that it be tied together. Despite being in a tough race for City Attorney, Scott refused to impose retirement insecurity on City Workers and forced the Mayor to go back to the table and collectively bargain in good faith. And, when we had a list of requirements we wanted enacted to protect private sector workers if City work was outsourced, Scott once again carried the ball.
His effectiveness and values haven't changed while at the Port, either. One of his first actions at the Port was to pass a policy that gave additional bid points to contractors who provide health care for their service workers. He has taken a no-nonsense approach with developers, hoteliers and Port Cities, explaining to them that they need to address worker issues if they want to successfully build and operate on the waterfront. And, he is committed to not only creating more jobs, but ensuring that they are good jobs with a living age and health care.
That is the Scott Peters I know.
And, right now, I think that is exactly the kind of leader we need in Washington. Someone who not only has a track record of standing up for workers against corporate lobbyists and special interests, but has helped us to actually win some of those fights!
- Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer and CEO, San Diego Labor Council
(Cross-posted at San Diego Labor Council)