Our Story

Since 1885, the LA Fed has been a force for equality and opportunity in Los Angeles.

We are a federation, representing more than 300 affiliated unions with common values. Our mission is to safeguard the rights of working people and make a real difference for their families and communities.

We empower workers to organize, because that’s the best way to ensure good, safe jobs. We fight for anyone who believes in the American Dream, especially those who have systematically been kept from it. We support policies and campaigns that will transform LA. We don’t take baby steps, we leap forward to create lasting change. We’re proud of our 100-year history, but our eyes are fixed on the next hundred years.

Our History

We go back—way back. For a long time, the wealthy elites that more-or-less ran LA made sure it was an anti-union (and anti-worker) town. The labor movement had to out-think and out-organize against impossible odds. We had to take power where there was none—a lesson that continues to inform our work.

In the beginning, the LA Fed was called the Central Labor Council and the labor situation was messy. There were three separate unions in LA representing just bakers, giving bosses way too much leverage. By bringing unions together, we helped amplify their voice and solidified their power so workers got a better deal at the bargaining table. We got pretty good at that: Today the LA Fed represents more than 300 unions and 800,000 workers.

One of the first campaigns we ever fought was for the minimum wage. Not the $15 per hour minimum we passed in 2015—the original minimum wage. The LA Fed provided hot meals to unemployed workers, helped usher in the 8-hour workday, and organized a serious challenge to the city’s power brokers. They didn’t take it lightly. In 1915, the Los Angeles Times, which was then a rabidly conservative paper that represented the interests of the business elite, declared we had breathed our “dying gasp.” One-hundred-and-one years later, we’re still breathing.

In more recent decades, a series of visionary leaders such as Jim Wood, Miguel Contreras, and Maria Elena Durazo helped to reinvigorate the labor movement in LA and open our doors ever wider. They created new, safer, better jobs. They took up the cause of immigrants’ rights and made the labor movement a more powerful political force than at any other time in the city’s history.

Now under the leadership of Rusty Hicks, who previously served as the LA Fed’s political director, we won a historic increase in the minimum wage, doubled sick days for workers, pushed LA City and County to crack down on wage theft, negotiated agreements for the NFL stadium, and passed a game-changing initiative – affordable housing built by Angelenos who need the jobs most, including veterans.

What we do

Organizing — More than 100 years experience tells us that unions and the right to bargain collectively are the best way to create good, safe jobs. We help protect existing locals and organize workers so they can make better lives for themselves.

Politics — We support progressive leaders who have vision and compassion, and who fight for working people.

Campaigns — We push for transformational change with initiatives like Prop. JJJ to create more affordable homes and LA Raise the Wage to reduce poverty.

Vision — The struggles we face today are urgent, but we also have to plan for the future. We’re looking decades ahead to prepare for a changing world, where issues like the gig economy, robotics, and machine learning may threaten shared prosperity.

We represent and believe in the future of LA.