State Sen. Connie Leyva ’91 (D-Chino) returned to her alma mater recently to share the story of her career in politics. “I really love what I do,” Leyva said to a group of University of Redlands students, staff, and community members. “I really love [serving in] the state of California because we can actually get things done.”
It was 1991 when Leyva, an Inland Empire native, graduated from the University of Redlands with a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders. She had gotten married and had a baby while in college, and her first notable job after graduation was for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1428, a union representing grocery store workers.
This experience opened Leyva’s eyes to woman’s rights issues. After she was denied a promotion despite exceeding all of her boss’s expectations (because “I was a woman in 1994”), she developed a passion for defending woman’s rights. She took that passion into a leadership role, becoming the president of UFCW Local 1428. In 2004, she was elected as the first woman president of the California State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, representing more than 2.1 million workers throughout the state.
In 2014 she decided to run for state senate. “I wanted to make a difference as someone who knew about workers’ rights, and who knew about living wage. It was time to help people on a more major scale,” she said.
Leyva was re-elected in 2018. She currently represents a million constituents in the Inland Empire and composes 12 to 15 bills each year. One bill she is especially proud of is Senate Bill 210, a bill that requires large trucks to get smog checks. Her personal experience informed her work; as a child, she couldn’t see the mountains and her chest would hurt from breathing smog. “There were always alerts to not play outside,” she added.
Another bill of pride is Senate Bill 1182, which strengthens California’s commitment to preventing technology-based sexual harassment, making it unlawful to send others unsolicited, sexually explicit material.
The best part of her work, Leyva said, was helping people “and going after my passion.” At the end, she told the Bulldogs, “Find your passion, and you will never feel like you’re working.”
It was an inspiring message, said Edison Forman '21. “She made me want to make a meaningful change in the world through politics."
The talk was sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR) Convocations and Lectures.