Remembering Paul Gonzalez-Coke
Family, friends, colleagues and scores of Union Sisters and Brothers are mourning the passing of Paul Gonzalez-Coke, a long-time union activist best known for his work as one of the founders of SEIU Local 1000.
A native of San Francisco—and a lifelong fan of the Giants and 49ers—Paul joined the Army and earned the rank of Lieutenant while serving his country during the Vietnam War.
By itself, Paul’s career in state service was remarkable. After graduating from Sacramento State University (CSU-Sacramento) with a Master’s in Public Administration/Public Policy, he worked at the Department of Health Care Services for 30 years. As a Policy Analyst, Paul helped guide and shape the state’s Medicaid program in support of the less fortunate among us.
Today’s Local 1000 emerged from the growing demand for a member-led, autonomous union. Paul joined others in forming the Caucus for a Democratic Union (CDU), who sought reform in the representation provided by the California State Employees Association (CSEA). Through a tireless organizing campaign and at risk to their personal and economic well-being, the CDU gained control of the future of the state workers they would represent and SEIU Local 1000 became a reality.
“Over the years members elected Paul to positions of trust, from delegate to CSEA’s General Councils and SEIU’s International Conventions, to District Labor Council President and twice as CSEA’s Executive Vice President,” said Jim Hard, a cofounder of CDU and the first elected president of SEIU Local 1000.
Paul was instrumental in forming SEIU International’s “Lavender Caucus,” a groundbreaking effort to facilitate dialog between the LGBTIQ community and the national labor movement. Later, he advised on the formation of Local 1000’s own Lavender Committee and served as a mentor to many of its members.
Whatever needed to be done—phone banking, stuffing envelopes, organizing—Paul lived the union life. He realized that, in order for a union to thrive, new leaders must be encouraged. Marc Bautista, a fellow activist, and Local 1000’s former Vice President for Organizing/ Representation, said “I will always be grateful for the time and attention that Paul and other union activists gave to me to make me a better person in the fight to ensure that all people are treated with respect and dignity.”
Paul Gonzalez-Coke will be remembered for his tireless advocacy for state workers and for his support of union values and social and economic justice. Our union is what it is today because of the efforts of Paul and his fellow CDU reformers. We are all better for having known and worked with Paul and honor his memory.
A celebration of Paul’s life is planned for Monday, Dec. 13, from 10:00 a.m. to 11 a.m., followed by a funeral and memorial service from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at East Lawn Memorial Park, 4300 Folsom Boulevard, Sacramento 95819.