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California's Labor Commissioner Joins Ranks of the Unemployed


Victoria L. Bradshaw--who as state labor commissioner cracked down on workplace abuses, including the alleged slave-labor garment factory in El Monte--has an employment problem of her own these days: She's out of work.

In a case of bad timing, Bradshaw last week announced that she was resigning from her labor post to become executive director of Pro-Wilson 1996, an organization intended to drum up support among women, business owners and community leaders for Gov. Pete Wilson's presidential campaign.

But on Friday, when Wilson pulled the plug on his presidential candidacy, Bradshaw found herself out of both jobs.

However, that situation shouldn't last long. Bradshaw, 46, a retail industry executive and consultant before becoming labor commissioner four years ago, is expected to be named by Wilson to another top state post shortly. Sacramento insiders say a good possibility is the now-vacant directorship of the Employment Development Department, a job that would put her in charge of a vastly larger budget and staff than in her old role.

While declining to comment directly on the EDD job, Bradshaw said she expects to stay with the Wilson Administration "in some capacity."

Bradshaw, the first woman to serve as California labor commissioner, drew sharp criticism during her tenure from union leaders and other worker advocates who branded her a do-nothing regulator. But Bradshaw's backers credited her with focusing more attention on the abuse-plagued garment-manufacturing and agriculture industries, while also expanding joint-enforcement efforts with other state and federal agencies.

For her part, Bradshaw said she is proudest of "what we accomplished during a time of diminished resources."

Her main moment in the limelight came in August when she personally directed the early morning raid of the alleged El Monte garment-making sweatshop where, authorities say, 72 Thai workers were held against their will.

The investigation leading to the raid was handled jointly with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. But when federal authorities hesitated to act, Bradshaw launched the state-led raid that liberated the Thai workers and led to charges against a ring of nine people accused of running the operation. She later publicly criticized the INS for its handling of the case, and argued her position on a variety of radio and television talk shows.

Bradshaw's duties are temporarily being handled by a group of state labor officials, but a permanent replacement is expected to be named shortly.

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