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The Growing Power of Latinos and Labor in Los Angeles

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There was an interesting article in Sunday’s LA Times. It said “Less than a generation ago, Southern California unions were dominated by white building trade unions—carpenters, plumbers and the like. Today, they are mainly service industry groups, populated by the city’s working class Latinos, first- and second-generation immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and beyond. They are more political than their predecessors, more liberal, more aggressive and more effective.

Next year, labor will help elect a mayor, a city attorney, a city controller and six members of the City Council. If recent history is any guide, labor will win more of those races than it loses. More viscerally, labor also increasingly displays its power in the streets.”

And it goes on from there to talk about the janitors strike here last spring that captured national attention and won wage hikes for some of the city’s working poor. Less renowned but no less effective have been the dogged efforts to expand living-wage laws from the city to the county to the airport. Security guards and baggage handlers at Los Angeles International Airport, once forced to work for poverty wages, got salary bumps in recent years because of the dogged influence of Los Angeles labor activists.”

The article concludes, “time and again, labor in Los Angeles is winning.”


  • Gil Sedillo, was the head of the SEIU local 660, largest public sector union representing 42000 Los Angeles county workers, nurses, clerical, welfare workers, hospital workers and librarians. He is also a Los Angeles State Representative.

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