The State of the Labor Union

May 8, 2019
5:28 PM
Originally published at Latino USA

Héctor Figueroa speaks to a crowd. (Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU)

Throughout U.S. history, Latinos have played a role in labor movements. One of the most well-known Latino organizers is César Chávez, who founded the United Farm Workers Union.

In other cases in history, some labor unions resisted including non-white workers and immigrants, but with huge demographic growth over the decades, there’s no doubt that Latinos play a key part in labor organizing today.

Puerto Rican native Héctor Figueroa heads one of the most powerful unions on the East Coast. He’s the president of 32BJ, a chapter of the Service Employees International Union. The union represents workers across the property service industry, from office cleaners to security guards and doormen.

Under Figueroa’s leadership, 32BJ has made major gains for worker’s rights—raising the minimum wage, increasing minimum hours and protecting immigrants from targeting by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Héctor joins Maria Hinojosa to talk about Latinos in labor organizing and the state of labor unions today.

This Latino USA podcast was reported by Maggie Freleng.


NPR’s Latino USA with Maria Hinojosa, produced by Futuro Media, is the longest running Latino-focused program on U.S. public media.