During the 1970s, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union (HERE) Local 11 in Los Angeles was losing power as restaurant owners dropped their union contracts and hotels cut wages and benefits. In 1978 a multiracial group of members calling themselves United Workers of Local 11 challenged the union’s long-serving leader Scotty Allan. The group distributed campaign flyers accusing union leaders of making backroom deals with employers and ignoring the concerns of the Spanish-speaking majority of members. Meeting weekly at the People’s College of Law near MacArthur Park, the rank-and-file activists found support from progressive lawyers and activists from other unions. Their bilingual campaign literature declared, “We can no longer disregard a major portion of our membership and make ‘second class members’ of so many.” Although United Workers lost the election, they helped established the right of non-citizens to hold office and participate fully in the union’s affairs through the lawsuit of Daniel Ruiz their candidate for secretary-treasurer. Their effort was the beginning of a decade-long struggle for union leadership that culminated in the election of Maria Elena Durazo in 1989.
From the papers of the ACLU of Southern California, box 826 folder 6, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
Learn more about UNITE HERE Local 11.