Lorena González

Applying for: Seattle City Council, Position 9

Below are the answers Lorena González provided to our ten-question job application. All answers are copied verbatim from what we received from the candidate.

1. What would you say is your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness?

My greatest strength is my lived experience as a woman of color who grew up in a bilingual, working-class home to immigrant parents.  My greatest weakness is math; it’s why I decided to be an attorney! 

2. What are the best & worst jobs you’ve ever had? Why?

The best job I’ve ever had is being an advocate both as a civil rights and worker lawyer and as a Seattle Councilmember.  In both roles, I’ve had the opportunity to righteously fight for social justice, equity and working families. The worst job I’ve ever had was working in a food processing plant’s cold storage room with little or no protective gear.

3. Why is this position a good fit for you?

I am running for re-election and seeking to retain my position because I love this work. With the election of Trump, I truly believe that I was born to serve precisely for this moment, especially because I grew up in an immigrant, Spanish-speaking household. In sum, I am running because in the wake of Trump’s election there are countless progressive policies that we must protect and promulgate: paid family and medical leave, secure scheduling, tenant protections and a city income tax just to name a few. I look forward to our collective efforts to keep Seattle a progressive, welcoming and vibrant city—for all residents

4. What makes you the best choice for workers in this race?

Even before becoming a councilmember, I have championed the rights of workers. As an attorney, I dedicated my career to seeking justice for workers who were victims of wage theft or workplace discrimination.  As counsel to the Mayor, I helped to implement Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law by overseeing the rulemaking process. In 2016, I co-sponsored Seattle’s Secure Scheduling law, which guarantees hourly workers a minimum of two-weeks notice of schedule changes, a minimum of 10 hours between shifts, access to additional hours for part-time workers and premium pay. The City Council unanimously passed this bill and it went into effect on July 1, 2017. I’m immensely grateful for the organizing efforts of Working Washington and many others who made this bill a reality. In 2017, I worked with the Working Families Coalition to make the case for a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program that would meet the needs of Seattle’s working families.  In June 2017, Governor Inslee signed into law the best-in-the-nation PFML insurance program, which Seattle’s working families will begin to benefit from beginning in 2019.  Lastly, like many Working Washington members, it wasn’t that long ago that I had to hold multiple, minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. I’ve worked at retail stores, fast-food restaurants, hotels, factories and banks. These are often the only jobs available to full-time students, working single moms and high school graduates. I will continue to ensure that these jobs maximize the economic and physical health of their workers.

5. What do you think is the single biggest issue affecting workers in your area? What would you do to address it?

Seattle workers continue to face the realities of increasing unaffordability in our City. While a $15/hour wage was an improvement, that wage has not kept pace with the increases in housing prices. Transportation is the second highest expense for a cost-burdened household and it still costs at least $5 for a round-trip fare on Metro and, for most Seattle workers, that bus ride is at least 1 hour long to get from home to work. The city must remain committed to building housing that our workforce can afford to rent and our housing levy dollars must be used to prevent working families from losing homes they might currently own. Utilization of community benefit agreements (CBAs) is also important.  CBAs aim to ensure that new developments serve the needs of local residents. CBAs are binding agreements signed by developers and broad coalitions of local residents and community organizations representing labor, environmental, and affordable housing advocates. In exchange for obtaining the support of community for its project, the developer agrees to a combination of: paying good wages to on-site construction workers; requiring on-site commercial tenants to pay good wages; building affordable housing as part of any residential development; providing funding for local infrastructure such as community centers, supermarkets, or schools; hiring local residents or members of vulnerable populations; and reducing and/or mitigating negative environmental impacts.

6. Describe a specific situation where you took action to support workers fighting for their rights. What was the experience like, and what did you learn? Bonus question: tell us about a time you engaged with workers with Working Washington.

I practiced law for 10 years before being elected as a councilmember.  As an attorney I fought for workers, many monolingual Spanish speakers, who had wages stolen or who were subjected to workplace discrimination. My work as an employment lawyer was some of the most gratifying “direct services” work I have ever done. There is no greater joy than seeing a client beam with pride when their employer is finally stopped from taking advantage of him/her and forced to not only pay back wages but penalty fees for their unjust behavior. As a councilmember, I had the pleasure of working closely with Working Washington leadership and some of its members on the Secure Scheduling ordinance that went into effect on July 1, 2017! It was their stories that created the pressure to pass that law and that directly influenced the final version of the law.  

7. What would be your top single priority if elected to this office? How would you define success or failure on this issue?

In May of 2017, the full City Council passed my Police Accountability Ordinance --- the largest and most historic package of police reforms in Seattle.  The next two years will prove critical to ensuring that the spirit and intent of the law are not negotiated away with the police unions and that we ultimately receive final approval from the U.S. Federal Court on the legislation.  As a civil rights attorney, I know that our ongoing efforts to reform the Seattle PD must continue to be a top priority and, as someone who has sued the Seattle PD and other PDs for police misconduct, I am in the best position to lead this charge on behalf of impacted communities. 

8. What can you do in this office to resist attacks by the Trump Administration on the rights of low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ?

In the words of Local Progress, “The Resistance is Local.”  Since the federal election, I have been on the frontlines of our local fight against the Trump Administration. I will fervently fight back against all insidious, hateful and misguided Executive Orders that are being falsely sold to the public as essential to public safety and national security, especially as it relates to immigrants, refugees and Muslims. In January, I was the prime sponsor of a Welcoming City Resolution that reaffirmed and doubled-down on Seattle's commitment to immigrant and refugee communities. The resolution makes it clear that our Seattle Police Department will not be part of Trump’s mass deportation force.  Instead, we will continue to provide essential public safety services to our immigrant and refugee neighbors without regard to immigration status.  In April 2017, I was the prime sponsor of the City’s Legal Defense Fund, which allocates $1 million to civil legal aid for indigent immigrants and refugees that live or work in Seattle and need assistance with immigration proceedings, including deportation proceedings. The President’s heavy handed and bigoted policies have no place in our city and I will continue to double down by using the bully pulpit to speak out against these policies and by offering sanctuary and legal support for those who are being targeted by the Trump Administration.

9. Tell us how you plan to address affordable housing, especially for minimum-wage and part-time workers, as well as for those left homeless because of high housing costs.

Although I’m proud of the work we’ve done to ensure that everyone in Seattle has fair access to affordable housing, I believe there is still much to be done. As more people are drawn to our vibrant neighborhoods and dynamic economy, many working families will experience continued difficulty finding affordable housing. That is why the City Council, along with the Mayor, commissioned the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee in the Fall of 2015. I continue to support the HALA’s recommendations including changes to zoning laws to support development of affordable housing in neighborhoods served by mass transit. I am fully supportive of the mandatory housing affordability ordinances as a key strategy to increase the construction of housing accessible to working families. This program will apply to both commercial and residential developers and I believe is key to the City’s strategy for collecting millions of dollars for building affordable housing for minimum-wage workers. Our $290 million of housing levy dollars will be used to help those who need deeper affordability through rental assistance, relocation assistance, foreclosure prevention and access to homelessness prevention services.  I am incredibly proud that Seattle voters agreed to tax themselves that that we can continue to serve our lowest-income neighbors.

10. How would you support advancing the rights of workers in non-traditional jobs, including domestic workers and workers in the gig economy?

I have deep, personal roots growing up as a low-wage worker that have dramatically shaped my beliefs on the rights of workers and my support for organized labor.  In my 40 years, I’ve worked as a migrant farmworker, a fast food worker, a hotel worker, a daycare worker, a processing plant worker and a retail store worker. From the young age of 10, I stood by my dad’s side as we organized migrant farmworkers in Central Washington to demand higher wages.  That experience transcended my childhood and into my career as an attorney where I dedicated my career to fighting for the rights of working people every day, including wage theft cases where I often times waived my attorney fee to maximize the worker’s recovery of back wages.  A vast majority of my clients were monolingual Spanish speakers and I had the pleasure of fighting for workers from many sectors: construction, restaurants, hotels, private clubs, retail stores, retail chains, etc.  I am profoundly committed to supporting and building an environment where the right to organize is preserved and encouraged and where the interests of working families are championed.  As a Councilmember, I was a vocal supporter of Initiative 124 (hotel worker protections) and in August I will join Unite HRE on a study mission to Southern California to exchange ideas with domestic workers and other progressive leaders about how to continue to champion the rights of domestic workers.