LA Fed’s Civic Leadership Academy Sets Union Members’ Sights on Local Offices


Thursday, August 30, 2018

CONTACT: Marie Condron – – 213-925-9605


Graduation ceremony for 89 rising political stars-from 30 local unions-marks strategy to develop a new generation of pro-worker political talent in the greater Los Angeles region.


Los Angeles, CA – A Thursday night celebration at LA Trade Tech College recognized dozens of aspiring political leaders for completing the Civic Leadership Academy, a training program sponsored by the LA Fed.

Established earlier this year, the CLA emerged from a strategy to develop a deep bench of pro-worker political candidates from within labor’s own ranks. The Academy draws on the Fed’s record of excellence in political campaigning to train members of local unions in the essentials of political campaigns and public service, from running field operations and building a winning coalition to the basics of policy and the responsibilities of civic commissions.

“Every workplace in Los Angeles has leaders in it, and workplaces where workers fight for their rights together bring leadership to the surface,” said Rusty Hicks, President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “With the Civic Leadership Academy, the LA Fed is preparing union leaders for public service-whether that’s running for office as champions for their communities or bringing a labor movement perspective to the critical civic commissions that too often fly under the radar.”

The graduates were also addressed by veteran labor organizer Maria Elena Durazo, a former leader of the LA Fed and a candidate for the California State Senate. “Union members shape public policy every day,” said Durazo, who is currently serving as a Vice President of the UNITE HERE union. “Our work expands health care, makes workplaces safer, fights inequality and makes families stronger. The time is right for workplace leaders to step up and lead their communities at every level, from school boards to commissions, from City Halls to the White House.”

Even in advance of graduation, one participant-Lauren Buisson-has won an appointment to the Echo Park Neighborhood Council. “Shirley Chisholm once said ‘if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair’,” said Buisson, a member of Teamsters 2010 and a vocal activist for local black and LGBTQ+ communities. “The LA Fed’s Civic Leadership Academy is my folding chair. It has trained me to be an effective voice at the table for all us working folks and our families. The LA Fed has invested in us working people to lead the fight for working people. I’m honored to join my cohort in the critical work of  shaping government policy to serve everyday folks.”

More than one graduate has set their eyes on the world of education policy, with participants preparing runs for local school board across L.A. County. Nichelle Henderson has put her hat in the ring for District 7 of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. “I’ve spent a lifetime learning, teaching, and thinking about education,” said Henderson, a member of the California Faculty Association and a professor at Cal State University-Los Angeles. “I’m throwing my hat in the ring for the LAUSD Board next year because my community needs new leadership. The Civic Leadership Academy starts from a very simple premise: doing the work is the best preparation to lead.”

“I’m running for Rio Hondo College Board of Trustees with a vision is to create a local community college that takes our aspiring learners from their desks to secure positions in our new economy,” said SEIU 721 member Oscar Valladares, who announced his candidacy earlier this year before graduating from the program. “I see the students not as spectators of regional transformation, but as the creators and imagineers of that transformation.”

Others are making plans to run for local bodies such as the boards of the Baldwin Park, Whittier High and Ontario School Districts; the city councils of Sierra Madre, San Fernando, Bellflower and Thousand Oaks; and various other local boards and party organizations. Graduates come from 30 different union organizations, including SEIU locals 721, 2015, 99 and United Health Workers-West; IATSE; SMART; AFSCME; UFCW; and CWA. Participation does not guarantee an endorsement from the LA Fed; graduates will plan to come before the Fed’s Committee on Political Education (COPE).