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Maria Elena Durazo, a powerful union voice who has led the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor since 2006, announced Wednesday she will leave the organization to join a national union and focus her efforts on national immigration issues.

Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Federation of Labor, is expected to start her new post with UNITE HERE on Jan. 1. She will serve as the general vice president on immigration, civil rights and diversity for the union, which represents, hotel, casino and food-service workers.

“I can summarize my career in a few words,” she said. “I grew up in the Central Valley of California. Cesar Chavez inspired me. I campaigned to become the leader of (UNITE HERE) Local 11 at a time when immigrant hotel workers were not entitled to participate in their union if they didn’t understand English.

“My late husband, Miguel Contreras, and I worked to empower immigrants and non-immigrants at the ballot box, bargaining table and workplace,” she said. “I have carried on that work as the leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor for the last 8 1/2 years and national AFL-CIO Executive Council leader since 2010. I have proudly led a movement that has extended the hand of labor to those who need us the most — those workers whose access to the American Dream have been blocked by poverty and callous employers.”

She called her new position “the next step in my life’s work.”

“The international leadership of my union, UNITE HERE, has asked me to come home to guide their national efforts to organize immigrants in their workplaces and communities throughout the United States and Canada,” she said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Durazo for her passion fighting for the rights of immigrants.

“She has made the L.A. County Federation of Labor an even stronger force for change, and I know she will have a similar impact in her new role,” Garcetti said. “From the minimum wage to immigration reform, our city is on the vanguard of so many critical issues, and I’m confident that my friend Maria Elena will take what we’re doing here in L.A. and successfully move the needle nationally.”


City News Service

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