About Miguel Contreras

A Community-Led Labor Movement

Working alongside marginalized communities in Los Angeles, Miguel Contreras changed the course of local history. Miguel is credited with expanding the influence of the labor movement while improving the lives of low-wage workers both inside and outside the labor movement. His life’s work was working with local communities to include previously excluded workers — in particular workers of color and immigrants — in the labor movement.

Born to migrant farm workers on September 17, 1952, by the age of 5, Miguel labored in the fields of Dinuba picking grapes. By his teenage years, he was organizing alongside his father and siblings, along with Cesar Chavez.

Miguel continued to advocate for workers with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE). Miguel’s work with HERE brought him to Los Angeles, where he met rambunctious Latina organizer and his wife, Maria Elena Durazo.


Miguel Contreras

“What we do here will set the pace for organized labor across the country. We can create a new vision of what a labor movement can do to make ourselves more effective and relevant for the people we represent.” — Miguel Contreras


Elected as the first person of color to lead the LA Fed, Miguel transformed what it meant to lead a local labor movement. He co-powered community-led organizing that made the Los Angeles labor movement stronger than ever before.

Under his leadership, union membership grew in size, in reflectiveness, and of influence. He coupled community-led organizing with politics and facilitated a new era of civic engagement for traditionally underserved communities in Los Angeles. This work persists today.

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“Now that Miguel is gone, it is our duty to finish the work he has begun among us. With the example of Miguel’s life and work as our guide — with the sacrifice and suffering of ordinary workers who organize, march, walk a precinct everyday — let us continue the fight to grow this great movement." — Maria Elena Durazo, Miguel Contreras Foundation Founder and General Vice President for Immigration, Civil Rights, and Diversity of UNITE HERE