UCLA Labor Center

First Lady’s Guest Shows Power of Community Partnerships to Tackle the Black Jobs Crisis


Advisory, January 19, 2014


Contact: Joe Newlin, j@vsbly.org, 213-915-6005; Stefanie Ritoper, sritoper@ucla.edu, 213-375-4841

First Lady’s Guest Shows Power of Community Partnerships to
Tackle the Black Jobs Crisis

WHAT: LeDaya Epps, a member of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center (BWC), will attend the State of the Union speech as guest of First Lady Michelle Obama. Raised in South Central Los Angeles, Epps grew up in the foster care system, and later had difficulty finding work. Working as a medical assistant and in other odd jobs, she couldn’t make ends meet to support her three children.

LeDaya joined the BWC’s Ready to Work program, which partners with community groups, unions, and employers to provide job readiness training, tutoring, and mentoring to help workers join union apprenticeships. The program connected her to Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services, a job-placement organization, and helped her become an apprentice with the Laborers International Union (LIUNA). She’s now part of a crew building the new Crenshaw/LAX light rail line.

White House blog post about Le Daya: http://bit.ly/sotu-ledaya

Department of Labor blog post about Le Daya: http://bit.ly/DOL-ledaya

WHO: LeDaya Epps – first-year apprentice, LIUNA; Lola Smallwood Cuevas – director, LA Black Worker Center

WHY: “Black workers face nearly double the unemployment rate of the general population nationwide. Black workers and women are severely underrepresented in the construction industry. We know that there are deep institutional barriers to employment–background checks, credit checks, discrimination on the job, and more.” says Lola Smallwood Cuevas, director of the LABWC. “LeDaya’s story is an incredible model for how to dismantle these barriers when community groups work together with unions, employers, and local agencies. We need to decide that black workers lives matter and replicate this model across the country.”

WHEN/WHERE: Contact Joe Newlin (213-915-6005) to schedule interviews.


The Los Angeles Black Worker Center works to reverse the Black jobs crisis by increasing access to quality jobs, reducing employment discrimination, and improving industries that employ Black workers through action and unionization. The center seeks to change public policies & corporate practices in Los Angeles to advance economic justice for black workers and their families. http://lablackworkercenter.org/