In 1978 members of HERE Local 11 launched a campaign to unseat long-time union leader Andrew “Scotty” Allan. United Workers of Local 11 ran a multiracial slate of men and women committed to greater member participation in the 20,000 member union. Their candidate for the office of secretary-treasurer was Daniel Ruiz, a resident immigrant and respected leader among the workers at the Hyatt hotel. However, the election committee of Local 11, citing the constitution of the international union, declared Ruiz ineligible for office because he was not a U.S. citizen.
“Denying non-citizens the right to run for office means, in effect, that the Spanish-speaking majority is without representation, without equality under the law, and that the minority of the membership exercises all decision making powers while the majority is left out.”
With the help of the ACLU of Southern California, Ruiz and his allies sued Local 11 for violating Ruiz’s right to full participation in the union and other members’ right to nominate the person of their choosing. The union’s election committee quickly backed down and allowed Ruiz’s nomination. Although United Workers of Local 11 did not win the election, members of the union continued to demand a more responsive union leadership. Following the 1978 lawsuit Local 11 began translating contracts and other key documents, but the English-speaking members who dominated union meetings routinely voted down proposals for simultaneous translation of meetings. In 1985, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against Local 11 on behalf of two members demanding full translation of meetings, and in 1987 a judge ruled in their favor. A year later Scotty Allan was out of office.
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 with 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 activist 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.
In 1972-73, the Immigration and Naturalization service carried out widespread raids on workplaces, businesses, and homes in Los Angeles. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, in collaboration with the Center for Autonomous Social Action (CASA) and other allies in the Latinx community, filed suit to stop the raids–a case that became known as Loya v. INS. Founded in 1968 and led in its early years by Bert Corona, CASA provided social and legal services to undocumented immigrants, trained them to assert their rights, and supported unionization efforts. As this press release details, the ACLU charged that the INS was using “terror methods,” and targeting everyone with a “Latin appearance” including U.S. citizens. The Loya case was an early episode in a long-running battle between legal advocates and immigration officials. Download the Document.