From Union Activist to Union Leader

It is with great humility that I want to express my appreciation to the body for electing me as the Executive Secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. At a time when the labor movement is in a transformational era with changes in leadership at various levels and within many institutions, we are experiencing a resurgence of the labor movement in the entire Los Angeles and Orange County region.

We’re seeing large scale contract settlements, large and small scale strikes, poverty and income inequities at the forefront of mass media as we battle a need for more housing at all levels: from addressing the eradication of homelessness, all the way to enabling our members’ abilities to purchase a home. It is imperative that wages, benefits and working conditions become the primary solution for these inequities and that they meet the basic needs of working families.

My introduction to union membership became in the summer of 1982 when I worked for Greyhound Expo, now known as GES. I joined Teamsters Local 986 as a casual in the Trade Show and Convention Centers Division at the local convention centers, moving large crates on the docks and working closely with the Decorators from Painters and Allied Trades Local 831

After that summer I resumed my studies at UC Riverside and was active with multiple student organizations including serving two terms with the Student Legislative Council. 

At the time, the United Farm Workers union (UFW) was actively organizing in the Riverside rural area, and recruited me to assist in their organizing and first contract negotiations efforts. 

By the end of 1984, as I was completing my bachelor’s degree, I was hired by the UFW as what they called a “volunteer staffer,” earning $30 per week with housing and transportation provided. Afterward, I served as a project staffer for the AFL-CIO, where I was instrumental in the founding of the Labor Immigrant Assistance Project and the California Immigrant Workers Association, and then worked as a representative for the national AFL-CIO. Following that, I became a grand lodge representative for the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, and more recently I was a business representative and political coordinator for Teamsters Local 952.

In 2015 I commenced my career with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. Working with our local affiliated unions, we took charge of our mission in Orange County. At the time, there were only two Project or Community Workforce Agreements in place and a common myth said that these types of agreements were an aberration. Now, we have propelled ourselves to have more than 20 agreements and more to come. 

This all came together with the unity, the will to invest, the assertiveness, mobilization and pro-active nature that the Building Trades have exhibited in Orange County.

Be assured that we will continue the good work of this Council. Together, we will continue to achieve agreements at all levels and in all of the economic sectors that our members labor in: Construction, whether it be commercial or residential, in energy, whether it be fossil fuels or renewables, and private or public sector.

From Lancaster to San Clemente, from Santa Monica to Pomona, we will continue to foment our position to improve the lives of our members. We will continue the fight against those that attempt to inhibit our work, when they attempt to shut our jobs down or bust our unions. 

We shall unapologetically fight for our members’ blue collar careers. Our commitment is to the blue-collar workers who get up every morning, who don’t ask for a handout, but only ask to be given an opportunity to work an honest day in return for an honest wage. We will tell our stories—how we provide equity through industrial democracy and pathways to the middle class for our local communities.

We will continue to offer to all who are interested the pathway to the middle class through our Community Benefits Agreements and our Apprenticeship Readiness Fund.

I want to take this opportunity to thank State Building Trades President Chris Hannan for his service with us. He accomplished awesome achievements during his tenure as Council Representative and as Executive Secretary.  

So again, I pledge to you to do my very best for the unions of the Building Trades and it is with humility that I look forward to serving and leading with you.

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