Serving In Public Office
CSEA members in public office take advocating to the next level
For decades, members who have found success advocating for CSEA have gone on to serve in local government. Whether as school board trustees or on the city council, CSEA activists today are advocating beyond the worksite to serve their communities.
The AFL-CIO, which CSEA belongs to as an affiliate organization, abides by a resolution that encourages union members to run for local public office via Resolution 10.
In reflecting the AFL-CIO’s goal, CSEA is revamping efforts to provide training for prospective members vying for public leadership, with select field offices already empowering members through boot camps and field office trainings to hopefully one day amplify the classified voice.
CSEA supports these efforts by providing campaign strategies, timelines, and resources for those interested in running for office. But aside from providing resources, member activists are actively building leadership traits ideal for public service throughout their time with CSEA.
CSEA activism shapes political future
For Diosdado “JR” Matulac of Vallejo Chapter 199, winning his election in 2022 to become a Vallejo City Council member originated with his CSEA activism.
“Similar to serving our students and families as a school employee in social work, campaigning to serve these same students and families as an elected official was a natural progression,” Matulac said. He currently works as an academic support provider for Vallejo City Unified and was a city commissioner before becoming council member.
“I was able to draw on the skills and experiences that CSEA provided in leadership roles on the executive board and committees within our Vallejo Chapter 199, at the regional and area level, and at the state level on CSEA committees while also being engaged in my civic duties.”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Vallejo City Council Member Diosdado 'JR' Matulac
"I was able to draw on the skills and experiences that CSEA provided in leadership roles on the executive board and committees within our Vallejo Chapter 199..."
- Diosdado 'JR' Matulac, Vallejo Chapter 199
Matulac says his CSEA leadership positions have provided him with the skills and experience to build relationships and consensus when making difficult choices or deciding votes as a new city council member.
“Being a union member and leader has been a driving force. Enabling me to have a direct connection to the working class and everyday citizens I was elected by, while relating to the daily struggles and social justice issues that I’m being asked to address and resolve,” Matulac said.
Leveraging union ties
Diana Gonzalez of Modesto Council 5010 was recently appointed as board president of the Riverbank Unified School District after serving as trustee. After years as chapter president of Riverbank Chapter 31 overseeing successful bargaining agreements, Gonzalez has ascended from office secretary to one of the highest posts in her district.
“Classified staff are the backbone of our schools. We’re very strong and know what goes on throughout the district because we have staff all over,” Gonzalez said. “To be classified and then run for the school board, it has helped me a lot.”
Throughout her time with CSEA, Gonzalez’s organizing feats have helped her build ties throughout her community. Before retiring last November, Gonzalez worked 23 years for the school district she now oversees.
Riverbank Unified Board President Diana Gonzalez
"Classified staff are the backbone of our schools. We’re very strong and know what goes on throughout the district because we have staff all over..."
- Diana Gonzalez, Modesto Retiree Council 5010
Working at different sites gave Gonzalez a connection to her school district as a whole. By being part of the district workforce before becoming a trustee, Gonzalez prides herself on her connections to the community and her union.
"Being involved in the union and attending trainings, I went through all of that. It’s always good to have a voice in higher up positions because it benefits the union and the members,” said Gonzalez.
Bringing the classified perspective
As 2023 unfolds and California expects a new state budget for education, it is beneficial for CSEA to have classified workers, both active and retired, participating in local government.
Bringing the classified perspective to school boards and city councils not only helps improve schools, but also the communities they serve. Irene Lopez is the vice president of the San Ysidro School Board and focused her successful campaign on her experience as a classified worker for over 30 years.
“We needed someone who would be stable, who really cared about the community. That really encouraged me to run for the school board,” said Lopez, who has served as trustee since 2016.
San Ysidro Unified Board Vice President Irene Lopez
"That was my whole dream, to come back to my community and lead."
- Irene Lopez
“I said look, I’m already retired but I’m going to run for the school board because I want to help my community. I think children are the future of this country, so we need to work together to give them education and opportunities.”
Lopez was a longtime member of San Ysidro Chapter 154 before landing on the San Ysidro School Board. During the 2022 General Election, she successfully secured re-election to another term, cementing her status as an invaluable source of experience and leadership.
“It brings back a lot of memories of what we went through as CSEA members but at the same time, I’m glad I went through it,” said Lopez. “That was my whole dream, to come back to my community and lead. To help and learn because we have a lot of new staff. It feels good when they say, 'I love this community, I want to stay here.'”
Today, CSEA members are leading by example, both in their chapter and in the community.
By honing leadership and negotiating skills throughout their time as chapter leaders, CSEA is developing the future movers and shakers of tomorrow to benefit entire communities.