UNITE HERE is an organization that represents 270,000 working people across North America. Our members in the U.S. and Canada work in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries.
Our membership is diverse. We are predominantly women and people of color, and we hail from all corners of the planet.
Together, we are building a movement to empower immigrants and all workers across North America to achieve greater equality and opportunity.
Past and present, immigrants have been at the center of our Union’s work to end poverty and change lives. More than 100 years ago, UNITE HERE’s founding immigrant ancestors, mostly women, led the historic Bread and Roses strike. In Las Vegas, our members transformed the lives of thousands gaming workers after mounting a six-year picket line at the Frontier Hotel and Casino. And in Chicago, hotel workers at the Congress Hotel inspired many by staging the longest strike in history – all with the goal winning dignity and economic equality for working men and women.
The struggle for immigration reform similarly has been a long one. A decade ago, UNITE HERE led the labor movement in organizing the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride, calling attention to the need to reform and honoring the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. Since then, UNITE HERE members have continued to carry the torch for comprehensive reform.
Maria Elena Durazo
Since January 1, 2015, Maria Elena Durazo has served as the International Union Vice President for Civil Rights, Diversity and Immigration with UNITE HERE.
The daughter of Mexican immigrant farm workers, Maria Elena learned the importance of hard work and determination at a very young age. As a child, she traveled from Oregon to California with her parents and nine siblings to work in the fields.
Maria Elena started working at the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) Local 11 as an organizer in 1983, and soon after launched a campaign to transform the local into a democratic organization that was truly accountable toward its membership. She was elected as President in 1989, and helped to build Local 11 into one of the most active unions in Los Angeles County. In 1996 Maria Elena was the first Latina to be elected to the Executive Board of HERE International Union.
In 2003, Maria Elena became National Director of the Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride, a national campaign to address the nation’s immigration laws.
On May 15, 2006 Maria Elena Durazo was the first woman elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, a position she would hold for the next nine years. At the Federation, she represented the interests of more than 300 local unions and over 600,000 workers in every key industry. In 2010, Maria Elena was elected a Vice President of the national AFL-CIO Executive Council, where she served as the first leader of a local labor movement on the highest body of the AFL-CIO. She was also Chair of the National AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee.
Maria Elena has been elected to numerous national positions within the Democratic National Party. She has served on several Los Angeles City Commissions under mayors Tom Bradley, Richard Riordan, and Antonio Villaraigosa. She sits on various boards, including LAANE; the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board; the Los Angeles Coalition; and United Way.