María Elena Durazo Heads Advisory Committee

Maria Elena Durazo
María Elena Durazo introduces Arlene Holt Baker at the 2008 Labor Center banquet.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer María Elena Durazo was elected by acclamation to serve as the new chair of the UCLA Labor Center advisory committee on August 11, 2008. This is the first time the top leader of the Los Angeles labor movement has assumed this position. With over three hundred local unions, the L.A. County Federation of Labor represents over eight hundred thousand workers in every key industry.

David Sickler, who served as the Labor Center Advisory Committee chair for the past fifteen years, stepped down in order to assume his responsibilities as the new director of the California Construction Academy. Durazo acknowledged David Sickler’s many years of service and said she was honored to serve as the new chair. Durazo said, “The UCLA Labor Center is an important resource for unions and workers of Los Angeles. The Downtown Labor Center has become a vital hub for ­research, education, and new partnerships between the university, labor, and the broader community.”

Following the meeting of the Advisory Committee, Durazo addressed twenty-five student interns from the Labor Center’s Labor Summer Internship Program. She said that the students represent the hope for the future of the labor movement and that the experiences gathered this summer will strengthen them as leaders in the years to come.
On September 11, María Elena was also the featured speaker at a forum on labor and the 2008 elections, held at the Downtown Labor Center. She reported on her trip to the Democratic National Convention and her role as national cochair of the Obama for President committee. A spirited discussion followed her talk on the role of labor in the elections and the potential impact of the presidential elections on labor.

Before leading the federation, Durazo served as president of UNITE-HERE Local 11 and was the first Latina elected to the executive board of HERE International Union. She was elected in 2001 as general vice president of HERE International and in 2004 as executive vice president of the newly formed UNITE-HERE International. In 2003, María Elena became national director of the Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride, a national mobilization campaign to address the nation’s immigration laws. During that time, she also served on the national AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee.