Herrera resigns as head of LA Federation of Labor after leak

In the face of indignation in the face of a controversy leaked audio recordingLos Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera resigned Monday night, and the organization’s remaining leaders demanded on Tuesday that the three city council members implicated in the scandal also submit their resignations.

“Racism in any form has no place at the Maison du travail. It is unconscionable for those elected to fight for our communities of color to engage in disgusting and vile anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Asian and anti-Oaxacan remarks that pit our working communities against each other. These feelings will not be tolerated by our organization or those we represent,” federation board chairman Thom Davis, who took over as interim president, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Executive Council also calls on elected officials who were in attendance to follow President Herrera’s lead by also resigning immediately,” Davis said.

The federation, which represents 800,000 workers in 300 unions, has been at the epicenter of the crisis that has rocked Los Angeles’ political leadership over the past two days.

“Obviously, I am deeply disappointed with what happened and what was said. That’s not what the labor movement is all about,” said Chris Griswold, secretary-treasurer and senior leader of Teamsters Local 986 and vice-president at large of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Griswold sits on the county’s federation executive committee, which includes dozens of LA-area union vice presidents.

“We all agreed that this was a betrayal to all of us,” Griswold said of the leaked conversations. The federation, he added, has “problems, and they need to be addressed – not just the board, but also the staff”.

At the federation’s MacArthur Park headquarters on Tuesday, union staff asked about attending protests related to the controversy and were assured they could do so, said federation spokeswoman Stephanie Saporito.

Critics have also come from the highest spheres of power in the labor movement. AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement Sunday, “We will gather all the facts, but the hate speech reported at this meeting is inexcusable.”

“We are a movement of large organizations and deep-rooted processes,” Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, president of the California Labor Federation, which is separate from the local federation, said in a tweet late Monday. “But, we ultimately prioritize working class solidarity among all racial groups above all else. Now is the time for our labor movement to come together and begin the hard work to heal.

Herrera – along with Los Angeles City Council members Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo – had participated in a closed-door conversation in October 2021 at the federation offices in which Martinez said the council member Mike Bonin treated his black son as if he were a “prop” and described the child as “looks like changuito(like a monkey).

Other racist and derogatory remarks were made during the conversation, which largely focused on the process of redrawing the city once a decade and preserving and maintaining Latino political power.

“The hateful language used at this meeting, held within the walls of the House of Labor, was completely unacceptable, as was the very nature of the meeting itself – plotting to disenfranchise black and Asian voters through ‘a redistricting, the practice of which is deeply rooted in racial discrimination,’ the executive board of the American Federation of Musicians Local 47, one of the federation’s officials, said in a statement Tuesday. “These are not the values ​​of the labor movement, nor the values ​​of Angelenos.”

The conversation remained private for about a year before exploding into public on Sunday in a Times report. The leaked audio was originally posted on Reddit, which declined to comment on the posts or the controversy.

The labor federation internally described the audio leak as part of a “serious breach of security and privacy” in his offices involving “unlawful” recordings of “numerous private and confidential conversations in private offices and conference rooms”, according to the text provided to The Times.

The federation has not publicly addressed the source of the recordings, other than initially attacking the Times for publishing the content. This defensive approach, rather than an outright condemnation of racist content, angered some leaders of the organization.

“When I saw this, I almost threw my phone away,” one of the federation’s vice-presidents said on condition of anonymity to criticize internal decision-making.

Herrera’s resignation came after snowballing demands for Martinez, De León and Cedillo to leave the city council and for Herrera to step down as head of one of the most powerful and influential labor organizations in the country. Martinez, who had served as city council president, announced Monday morning that she was stepping down from her leadership position and said Tuesday that she was take a vacation advice.

“It’s so disappointing,” Griswold said of the board members. “They don’t represent the work in any way.”

Support for Herrera’s removal had spread widely in the labor movement on Monday, including among leaders of eight California Service Employees International Union branches with members from the Los Angeles-area United Teachers Los Angeles , Unite Here Local 11 and the California Nurses Assn.

Shortly before Monday night’s meeting, Herrera’s local, Teamsters Local 396, joined other Teamsters locals in calling on him to leave his position with the federation.

Herrera did not attend Monday’s meeting, which was held over Zoom, and instead a statement was read by Davis, according to two sources present. A source said most members were more concerned about the fallout than who recorded the conversations.

Herrera and Davis did not respond to interview requests.

“If you’re a political figure, or if you’re elected, or if you’re a union leader, you have to be very careful what you say behind closed doors,” said a source who attended the meeting.

Times editor Julia Wick contributed to this report.

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