Mourning the Loss of 32BJ’s Leader, Héctor Figueroa

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Héctor Figueroa, 32BJ SEIU President

NEW YORK, N.Y. – With overwhelming sadness, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union mourns the passing of its president, Héctor J. Figueroa, who died suddenly of a heart attack on the evening of Thursday, July 11. He was 57 and is survived by his wife, Deidre, and his children Eric and Elena. Héctor was elected President of 32BJ, the largest property services union in the country, in 2012. Information on memorial services to honor his legacy and contributions will be released when it becomes available.

Héctor’s personal and principled concern for working people, union staff and others will be sorely missed by those who had the opportunity to work at his side. He strived to continually further the well-being of 32BJ members and working people on a national and international level.

32BJ members, staff and members of the public alike say they were often struck by Héctor’s humility and his accessibility. Many said he treated everyone like an equal. He consistently encouraged 32BJ and others in the labor movement to move to the vanguard of struggles related to climate change, immigrant rights and racial justice. Héctor believed in fighting to improve the lives of every worker, whether they belong to 32BJ or not. His commitment to fighting for justice for all workers has permanently changed the labor movement in our country.

“It is impossible to overstate the loss of Héctor to our SEIU family. Héctor has made a lasting impact on the heart and soul of our union, and he will be sorely missed,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said. “Héctor’s leadership made it possible for janitors, doormen (and women), security officers, airport workers and so many other working people across the U.S. and Puerto Rico to join together and lift up their wages and improve their jobs.”

“Héctor Figueroa embodied the word solidarity,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a tweet. “To the men and women of 32BJ SEIU and people in every corner of this city who looked to him as a leader: his legacy belongs to each of us now.”

“Héctor Figueroa was a champion for working people, minorities, the poor, the voiceless — a hero of the labor community who did untold good for the working people of this state,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a tweet.

“Héctor dedicated his life to fighting for better wages and conditions for all workers. Our working families have lost a fierce advocate. We have all lost a dear friend,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in a statement.

“This is an unfathomable loss,” said Working Families Party National Director Maurice Mitchell and National Committee Chair Dan Cantor. “Héctor Figueroa was a giant of the American labor movement, and a leader in the broader struggle for economic and social justice”

“We are utterly devastated by the news of the passing of Héctor Figueroa, who has been a lion in our movement,” said Javier H. Valdes, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “He has been a steadfast ally of community organizations like ours, and he has doggedly pursued justice for all New Yorkers.”

“Héctor Figueroa was a giant who made huge strides for New York, Puerto Rico, and communities across our nation; a champion for working people and a voice for so many,” said U.S. Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand in a tweet.

“Héctor’s legacy amongst some of the hardest working, and yet overlooked workers, will live on forever with the countless security officers and service sector workers he helped lift into the middle class,” said U.S. Senator from Vermont and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders in a tweet.

“Héctor’s leadership as president of 32BJ SEIU deeply inspired me, and I’m honored to have known him,” said U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, in a tweet.

Dozens of other elected officials, organizations, labor and social justice leaders expressed their sadness on Twitter, Héctor’s preferred mode of public communications where he often had direct conversations about 32BJ’s work with activists, workers and others.

Under the union’s constitution, Executive Vice President Kyle Bragg will assume the duties of the Office of the President. 32BJ represents more than 175,000 property service workers – window cleaners, airport workers, superintendents, doormen, maintenance workers, cleaners, porters and security officers – in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Under Héctor’s presidency, 32BJ grew by over 50,000 members and passed dozens of local and state policies protecting and lifting working families up and down the East Coast.

Héctor was born into the labor movement in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where his parents, as teachers, were part of a long struggle to win a union at work. His mother and father went on strike in 1974, but it wasn’t until 24 years later under Héctor’s leadership as SEIU Organizing Director for Puerto Rico that the teachers won collective bargaining rights. Under his leadership, teachers, state employees and his own parents were finally able to see the fruit of their many years of struggle for justice.

Héctor came to the United States in 1982 after participating in a student strike. He stayed with an aunt and uncle in the Bronx and completed his college education on a grant to study economics. Driven to continue his activism, Héctor started at the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (now Workers United) in 1990, where he took part in several campaigns including efforts to organize textile workers at Fieldcrest Cannon in North Carolina and protests against NAFTA. Héctor was one of the first leaders in the labor movement to strongly advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and played an active role in ACTWU’s international solidarity and global organizing work.

In 1995, he joined SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign, followed by his work in Puerto Rico as SEIU Director for the island. In February 1999, he was asked to serve as deputy trustee for 32BJ and was elected as Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ in 2000. During his time at 32BJ, Héctor built and led the research and political departments, and served as leader for the tri-state and New York Metro areas. As Director of the 32BJ New York Metro District, Héctor led operations and bargained strong contracts for 70,000 members in the metropolitan New York area, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Long Island.

Under Héctor’s leadership, the union has become a political powerhouse, fighting for immigrant and worker rights and establishing the American Dream Fund, the union’s voluntary political action fund. In cities and states up and down the East Coast 32BJ has passed legislation that protects and lifts working families and communities; the union has successfully raised the minimum wage in New York state; established prevailing wage; increased minimum hours; protected workers when building owners change contractors; shielded immigrants from targeting by ICE; expanded language access and other immigrant rights; and advocated for the elimination of Puerto Rico’s public debt and defense of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. 32BJ has also been a leader in the Fight for $15 since the first strike of 200 fast food workers in New York City, and in 2017 passed a package of fair scheduling bills for fast food workers in New York City along with the ground-breaking Fast Food Worker Empowerment Act, which allows fast food workers to more easily form and join their own organization.

Under Héctor’s leadership, the union and its 175,000 members have been at the forefront of national fights to defend and expand voting rights, to fight the root causes and effects of climate change, and is a stalwart champion for racial, social and economic justice.

The union will honor Héctor by carrying on his legacy.

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With over 175,000 members in 11 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country.

 

 

Lamentando la pérdida del líder de la 32BJ, Héctor Figueroa

NUEVA YORK, NY – Con una tristeza abrumadora, la 32BJ de la Service Employees International Union lamenta el fallecimiento de su presidente, Héctor J. Figueroa, quien murió repentinamente de un paro cardíaco la noche del jueves 11 de julio. Tenía 57 años de edad. Lo sobreviven su esposa, Deidre, y sus hijos Eric y Elena. Héctor fue elegido Presidente de la 32BJ, la unión de servicios de propiedad más grande del país, en 2012. La información sobre los servicios conmemorativos para honrar su legado y las contribuciones se dará a conocer cuando esté disponible.

Aquellos que tuvieron la oportunidad de trabajar a su lado extrañarán la preocupación personal y de principios de Héctor por los trabajadores, el personal del sindicato y por otros. Se esforzó por mejorar continuamente el bienestar de los miembros de la 32BJ y de los trabajadores a nivel nacional e internacional.

Los miembros de la 32BJ, el personal y el público en general dicen que a menudo les impresionó la humildad de Héctor y su accesibilidad. Muchos dijeron que trataba a todos como a un igual. Constantemente alentó a la 32BJ y otros en el movimiento sindical a pasar a la vanguardia de las luchas relacionadas con el cambio climático, los derechos de los inmigrantes y la justicia racial. Héctor creía en luchar para mejorar la vida de cada trabajador, ya sea que pertenezcan o no a la 32BJ. Su compromiso de luchar por la justicia para todos los trabajadores ha cambiado permanentemente el movimiento laboral en nuestro país.

“Es imposible exagerar la pérdida de Héctor para nuestra familia de la SEIU. Héctor ha tenido un impacto duradero en el corazón y el alma de nuestra unión, y lo extrañaremos mucho”, dijo la presidenta de SEIU, Mary Kay Henry. “El liderazgo de Héctor hizo posible que los limpiadores, los porteros, los oficiales de seguridad, los trabajadores de los aeropuertos y muchas otras personas trabajadoras en los Estados Unidos y Puerto Rico se unieran para aumentar sus salarios y mejorar sus empleos”.

“Héctor Figueroa encarnó la palabra solidaridad”, dijo el alcalde de la ciudad de Nueva York, Bill de Blasio, en un tweet. “A los hombres y mujeres de la 32BJ SEIU y a las personas de todos los rincones de esta ciudad que lo consideraron un líder: su legado nos pertenece a cada uno de nosotros”.

“Héctor Figueroa fue un defensor de los trabajadores, las minorías, los pobres, los que no tienen voz, un héroe de la comunidad sindical que hizo mucho bien por los trabajadores de este estado”, dijo el gobernador de Nueva York, Andrew Cuomo, en un tweet.

“Héctor dedicó su vida a luchar por mejores salarios y condiciones para todos los trabajadores. Nuestras familias trabajadoras han perdido a un defensor feroz. Todos hemos perdido a un querido amigo “, dijo el gobernador de Nueva Jersey, Phil Murphy, en un comunicado.

“Esta es una pérdida insondable”, dijo el Director Nacional del Working Families Party, Maurice Mitchell, y el Presidente del Comité Nacional, Dan Cantor. “Héctor Figueroa fue un gigante del movimiento obrero estadounidense, y un líder en la lucha más amplia por la justicia económica y social”.

“Estamos completamente devastados por la noticia del fallecimiento de Héctor Figueroa, quien ha sido un león en nuestro movimiento”, dijo Javier H. Valdes, Co-Director Ejecutivo de Make the Road New York. “Él ha sido un firme aliado de organizaciones comunitarias como la nuestra, y ha buscado la justicia para todos los neoyorquinos”.

“Héctor Figueroa fue un gigante que logró grandes avances en Nueva York, Puerto Rico y las comunidades de todo el país; un defensor de la gente trabajadora y una voz para muchos “, dijo Kirsten Gillibrand, senadora federal del estado de Nueva York, en un tweet.

“El legado de Héctor entre los trabajadores que más se esfuerzan y que, sin embargo, son pasados por alto, vivirá para siempre con los innumerables oficiales de seguridad y trabajadores del sector de servicios que ayudó a incorporar a la clase media”, dijo el senador estadounidense de Vermont y el candidato presidencial Bernie Sanders en un tweet.

“El liderazgo de Héctor como presidente de la 32BJ SEIU me inspiró profundamente, y me siento honrado de haberlo conocido”, dijo la senadora estadounidense de Massachusetts y candidata presidencial Elizabeth Warren, en un tweet.

Docenas de otros políticos electos, organizaciones comunitarias, líderes de justicia social y sindical expresaron su tristeza en Twitter, el modo preferido de comunicación pública de Héctor, donde a menudo tenía conversaciones directas sobre el trabajo de 32BJ con activistas, trabajadores y otros.

Bajo la constitución del sindicato, el vicepresidente ejecutivo Kyle Bragg asumirá los cargos de la Oficina del Presidente. 32BJ representa a más de 175,000 trabajadores de servicios de propiedades (limpiadores de ventanas, trabajadores de aeropuertos, superintendentes, porteros, trabajadores de mantenimiento, limpiadores, y agentes de seguridad) en Nueva York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland y Washington, DC

Bajo el liderazgo de Héctor, el sindicato se ha convertido en una potencia política, luchando por los derechos de los inmigrantes y los trabajadores y estableciendo el American Dream Fund, el fondo de acción política voluntaria del sindicato. En ciudades y estados de la Costa Este, la 32BJ impulsó legislación que protege y eleva a las familias y comunidades trabajadoras; el sindicato ha aumentado con éxito el salario mínimo en el estado de Nueva York; el salario prevaleciente establecido; el aumento de horas mínimas; la protección de los trabajadores cuando los propietarios de edificios cambian de contratistas; la protección de los inmigrantes contra los ataques de ICE; ampliación del acceso lingüístico y otros derechos de los inmigrantes; y abogó por la eliminación de la deuda pública de Puerto Rico y la defensa de los puertorriqueños desplazados por el huracán María. La 32BJ también ha liderado la lucha por $15 desde la primera huelga de 200 trabajadores de comida rápida en la ciudad de Nueva York, y en 2017 impulsó la aprobación de una series de leyes de horario justo para trabajadores de comida rápida en la ciudad de Nueva York, junto con la innovadora ley de Fast Food Worker Empowerment, que permite a los trabajadores de comida rápida formar y unirse más fácilmente a su propia organización.

Bajo el liderazgo de Héctor, el sindicato y sus 175,000 miembros han estado a la vanguardia de las luchas nacionales para defender y expandir los derechos de voto, para combatir las causas y efectos del cambio climático, y es un defensor incondicional de la justicia racial, social y económica.

El sindicato honrará a Héctor por continuar con su legado.

 

eHeziMourning the Loss of 32BJ’s Leader, Héctor Figueroa

Comments 1

  1. Good riddance. 32 BJ and it’s leadership is a stain on this country. They protect illegal aliens at the expense of members.

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