Maria Elena Durazo – A Strong Advocate for California Worker’s Rights
It’s March, and that means it’s Women’s History Month!
When we celebrate historical months, we typically focus on
individuals and events from the past. But it’s equally important
to talk about people who are still alive and to highlight the
work they’re currently doing to ensure social, economic, and
environmental justice for all. One such figure is María Elena
Ms. Durazo represents Central Los Angeles and East Los Angeles as a California State Senator. But before she was elected to the State Senate in 2018, she was a major labor leader in California, serving as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor from 2006-2014, which championed the causes of low wage and immigrant workers. And she continues to serve as the Executive Vice President of the governing Executive Council of the national AFL-CIO.
Maria Elena got her start in the labor movement in the early 1980s as a member of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (UNITE HERE) fighting to give immigrant workers in Los Angeles a voice in local governance despite resistance from some union leaders. This persistence paid off when she led a reform slate at UNITE HERE to victory several years later and began empowering immigrant workers. In 1989 she became president of Los Angeles’ hotel workers union Local 11 and turned it into an activist political powerhouse.
Her efforts haven’t gone unrecognized. Capitol Weekly named Maria Elena the third most influential non-elected California official in its 2010 Top 100 List. In 2014, Maria Elena was named Most Valuable Local Labor Leader by The Nation magazine. And no less of an authority that the New York Times said that “as the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, [Maria Elena] presides over what is widely perceived as the most successful group of unions in the country.”
High praise indeed. So, congratulations to Ms. Durazo for her efforts to enrich the lives of workers. We’re lucky to have such a strong woman leading the fight for labor and immigrant rights in the California State Senate.