Contact: Christian Castro • • (310) 857-9817



After five years, umbrella organization for LA’s unions reflects a more inclusive labor movement 


Effective today, Rusty Hicks has resigned as the President of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, after his election in June as the chair of the California Democratic Party. 

“It has been an honor to serve the LA Fed as Political Director and, since 2014, as President,” said Hicks. “The 800,000 working people represented by the Fed have been the stars that guided me, and every single day I’ve asked myself two questions. First, how can our work make them more powerful at work and freer in their own lives? And second, how can our work bring power, justice and dignity to those who aren’t organized, who haven’t always been included, but who number in the millions throughout Los Angeles County?”

Hicks began his term as President of the LA Fed in November 2014, following the departure of Maria Elena Durazo. He had previously served as Political Director under Durazo, where he developed the Fed’s formidable electoral apparatus. His term as President is notable for its pursuit of an ambitious and innovative agenda for the Los Angeles labor movement that has expanded the organization’s mission significantly while establishing broad support throughout the Fed’s member organizations for that agenda.

Key highlights of Rusty’s term in office include:

A brand new organizing department. While the Fed has long been known for its political prowess, under Hicks it turned its attention to providing material support for local organizing drives while taking responsibility for cultivating the next generation of union member organizers. Notably, the organizing department hosted a critical effort in the run-up to the Janus v AFSCME Supreme Court decision that united worker organizers from public-sector and private-sector unions alike in a drive to boost membership before the decision could undercut union power. LA Fed trained organizers signed up more than 1,800 members; the Fed’s Organizing Institute has trained more than 250 worker organizers in less than 2 years. 

In addition to training, the organizing department has catalyzed innovative campaigns in the Los Angeles labor movement. Building on the work around Janus, the department convened representatives from public sector unions to focus attention on the racist dimension of the Janus attack on the public sector, resulting in the report A Bright Future for Los Angeles Requires Organizing More Black Public Sector Union Workers and sustained efforts to protect public sector employment in L.A.’s Black communities. 

A revitalized Miguel Contreras Foundation. During Hicks’ term in office, the Fed’s 501(c)3 organization renewed its mission to serve immigrants and communities of color, with special focus on members of the working class not yet served by the labor movement. Hicks, who as a child first met his own father at the visiting room of a Texas state penitentiary, was especially dedicated to the establishment of the Second Chance Apprenticeship Preparation Program, which prepares formerly incarcerated people for building trades union careers, enabling people who face frequent discrimination in the job market to find jobs that offer middle-class wages and benefits, advancement and pride. The MCF also created the Powered By Immigrants specialized training on immigration rights aimed at both workers and employers, a critical resource as Trump administration immigration enforcement heated up. 

A broad, inclusive movement. Many of the key accomplishments of the Fed in this period have been aimed at building worker power through policies and institutions that reflect the incredible diversity of Southern California’s working class. Workers centers have joined unions as member organizations of the Fed, including the carwasheros and the Korean Immigrant Worker Advocates (who are now represented on the Fed’s Executive Board). The Raise the Wage campaign in Los Angeles that the Fed led to win a minimum wage increase has lifted up working families far beyond the 800,000 members of local unions, as will the water-resilient environmental vision set forth in County Measure W. The Fed’s 2019 Green New Deal resolution demanded transformative action to build a green economy without sacrificing the gains that workers have made. The coalition that the Fed built around the Build Better LA measure, 2016’s Prop JJJ, disrupted Los Angeles’s gridlocked housing debate and resulted in the innovative Transit Oriented Communities policy that has kickstarted the production of affordable, climate-friendly development near transit.

A political powerhouse. Those working-class, legislative victories of Raise The Wage, County Measure W and Build Better LA required political capabilities beyond those of any other civic organization in Los Angeles County, rallying member unions to mobilize their resources for campaign after campaign without flagging. To those campaigns can be added the #BlueTsunami victory of Rep. Katie Hill in Northern Los Angeles County. Amid those mobilizations, the Fed under Hicks initiated the Civic Leadership Academy, which starts from the principle that the best labor champions will be union members themselves. The CLA, now entering its fifth cohort, has prepared dozens of union members to run for office or serve on commissions and boards.

A strong institution. Today, the leadership of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor includes double the number of women as when Hicks arrived, five times more young leaders, and sixty percent people of color. The executive board of the Fed is currently in the second round of a strategic planning process that has assembled widespread consensus backing for the political, organizing, community and institutional goals of the Fed.