Labor Leader Maria Elena Durazo Steps Down to Move Up

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In his December 2013 profile of Maria Elena Durazo, Hillel Aaron encapsulated the might and influence of the L.A. labor leader in one simple sentence: “Anyone who wants to build anything big—a hotel, a skyscraper, a sports stadium, a rail line—must first go through her…Now, she’s going national.

Durazo, who for the past eight and a half years has acted as the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, will be stepping down from that post to take on a vice president position with UNITE HERE, the countrywide union for casino and hospitality workers. In her new appointment, which begins January 1, she will tackle issues surrounding civil rights, immigration, and diversity.

Having served as the head of UNITE HERE’s Los Angeles unit (Local 11) for almost 17 years, Durazo’s move doesn’t come as much of a shock. Of her decision to join UNITE HERE, she said that it is “the next step in my life’s work.”

Durazo’s move comes just a month after a big win in raising L.A.’s minimum wage for non-unionized hotel workers. In a statement, mayor Eric Garcetti was confident that she’d pack the same punch at her new position. “From the minimum wage to immigration reform, our city is on the vanguard of so many critical issues, and I’m confident that my friend Maria Elena will take what we’re doing here in L.A. and successfully move the needle nationally,” he said.