“I asked each one of them to climb an imaginary hill with me and look down at what Los Angeles could be. And then I asked them to think about what it would take to get there.”
— Miguel Contreras
Working alongside marginalized communities, Miguel Contreras changed the course of worker history in Los Angeles. To his everlasting credit, Miguel expanded the influence of the labor movement while improving the lives of low-wage workers both inside and outside organized labor.
Miguel was born to migrant farm workers on September 17, 1952. Beginning at the age of 5, he labored in the grape fields of Dinuba. During his teenage years, he organized alongside his father, siblings, and Cesar Chavez on behalf of the movement that would become the United Farm Workers.
As an adult, Miguel’s work with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) brought him to Los Angeles, where he met his future wife, Maria Elena Durazo.
Elected as the first person of color to lead the LA Fed, Miguel redefined the role of a central labor council. With a little creativity and a unique approach, he shepherded union membership growth by focusing on previously excluded workers — in particular, workers of color and immigrants. His electoral campaign innovations facilitated a new era of civic engagement and leadership for traditionally underrepresented communities in Los Angeles. This work persists today.
“With the example of Miguel’s life and work as
our guide— let us organize, march, and walk this great movement forward.”