“My family struggled a lot over the years, and that really had a lasting impact on me to see my parents really struggle to make ends meet… it really is one of the things that led me to working in the labor movement,” began Pilar Schiavo, a former California Nurses Association member and candidate for California Assembly’s 38th District.
Schiavo grew up in a working class family – her father was a logger and her mother was a waitress. For the last 20 years, Schiavo has been an active labor organizer, fighting for opportunities for working families to have living wages, to be able to send their kids to school and to buy homes. The labor movement, Schiavo said, is “an opportunity for folks to not have the same kind of stress that my dad and my mom had when I was growing up.”
When Schiavo’s father got a union job, Schiavo said she saw “what a difference that made for families.”
For the last two years, Schiavo has been primarily focused on healthcare justice, ensuring that healthcare is guaranteed to everyone. She notes her experience in the California Nurses Association for the past 13 years and the RN Response Network for the last three years, which sends nurses to disaster areas, such as places impacted by California fires.
“I know the fires are a massive issue in our area and our state, and really also have huge economic impacts on families and homeowners,” Schiavo said. A Chatsworth resident, her home was rezoned into a high-fire danger area, where her housing complex dropped its fire insurance, forcing the homeowner’s association to find emergency fire insurance to cover over 700 units in Chatsworth.
With a degree in ethnic studies, Schiavo wanted to work with youth and at-risk youth upon graduation. However, with new brain research coming out about how a family’s economics impacts child development, Schiavo quickly resonated with this issue, noting the stress money had put on her family growing up.
“If I wanted to create opportunities for kids, I really needed to change the economics of their families,” Schiavo said.
Her first internship was with the Hotel Workers Union in Los Angeles, where “the difference a union made for people who didn’t have health benefits, protections on the job, and who didn’t feel like they individually had power.”
Schiavo’s seen those struggling under the thumb of the economic impacts of COVID-19, noticing the “cracks in our system” and has stressed the need for bold leadership and leaders with creative solutions. Two major problems she addressed were homelessness and evictions, both further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and leaving lasting impacts on her community.
“We can’t have politics as usual and career politicians doing the same thing that they’ve always [said], because it’s not working,” she said. “When you’re on the ground working on these issues and you see over and over policies that are just Band-Aid solutions and not actually solving the problems is so frustrating.”
“We’re on the cusp of a tsunami in terms of the housing crisis exploding more than we’ve ever seen,” she continued. “[Homelessness] is definitely something I’ve seen a lot of frustration around, but there’s not a lot of long-term solutions that are being put into place… I see a lot of tax dollars wasted on Band-Aids that are moving people from one block to another and not really housing folks and not really getting people the services they need to be able to get on their feet.”
Striking at the root causes of homelessness and preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place is the true solution, Schiavo argued.
Schiavo co-founded West Valley Homes YES, an organization to support a supportive housing project in Chatsworth for unhoused folks, which grew into advocacy around solutions to homelessness. It is currently the largest homeless outreach project in the San Fernando Valley.
“When the pandemic hit, we started getting calls from folks who we knew and we had outreached to who were scared that they didn’t know where they were going to get food from,” she said. Schiavo noted that at the onset of the pandemic, churches and certain food pantries that would provide meals or meal delivery shut down their services and grocery store shelves were bare. Schiavo’s organization began to do outreach to deliver meals to people, which has delivered more than 20,000 meals since the beginning of the pandemic. Her organization currently does outreach every Sunday that reaches up to 500 unhoused people.
“We know there’s half a million people in LA alone who are facing eviction due to COVID,” she said. “When we would do outreach, we would see new tents pop up, in areas where they haven’t been before.”
“I don’t think addressing human needs and the needs of our community has to be a political issue,” Schiavo continued. “Just from what I’ve seen from [Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares] so far, I don’t see the kind of bold leadership and solutions that are needed and I think our district really deserves better. We deserve someone who’s going to go up there and really fight for us and I have a documented track record of being out there fighting for my community for two decades.”
Looking back on last year’s election, Schiavo noted it was “heartbreaking” not seeing any Democrats make it to the general election. By getting in the race early, Schiavo hopes to not repeat this same situation from happening again.
“It was such an important election and there was so much energy around it… if we had consolidated around one or two candidates for the primary, we definitely would’ve had a Democrat in that race.”
As of July 1, just under six weeks after launching her campaign, Schiavo has fundraised more than $120,000 in the race to flip California’s 38th Assembly District blue. Schiavo has broken the fundraising record for the district, raising more than any non-incumbent candidate in the shortest period of time for their first campaign finance filing.
She has since been endorsed by several elected officials such as Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Treasurer Fiona Ma, State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). Various labor organizations such as United Steelworkers Local 675, Roofers and Waterproofers Local 36, and National Union of Healthcare Workers have also endorsed Schiavo. On July 7, Schiavo received an endorsement from the American Federation of Government Employees TSA Local 1260, serving Southern California airports “from San Luis Obispo to San Diego” and an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
“This endorsement letter brought me to tears. I am so honored to be the first state candidate ever endorsed by @afge1260,” the labor organizer said on Instagram.
Schiavo was recently joined by Democratic competitor Jonathan Ahmadi in the 2022 midterm elections for California’s 38th Assembly District.
Those interested in learning more about Schiavo and her campaign can go to her website at https://pilar4ca.com/.
Tips? Leave a message with The Santa Clarita Valley Proclaimer: (661) 463-3228