Maria elena durazo
Senator María Elena Durazo was born the seventh child in a family of eleven children to migrant-worker parents. Growing up, Durazo traveled with her family, following the crops throughout California and Oregon, and experiencing the exploitative conditions and hardships that migrant laborers suffer. Despite these obstacles, Durazo attended St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, and graduated in 1975. In college, she became involved in the Chicano Movement at the urging of her older brother. Then she entered the labor movement as an organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (later called UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees). While working as a union organizer, she pursued an education in law at the Peoples College of Law and earned her degree in 1985. By 1987, Durazo was ready to lead a drive by the rank and file of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 11 to make the union more responsive to its majority-Latino membership. The organizing drive successfully instituted a shop-steward system that educated the rank and file on their rights, enabling workers to participate in negotiating their union contracts and ensuring that all meetings and publications were bilingual. In 2004, she became the Executive Vice President of UNITE-HERE International, the organization made up of the UNITE and HERE unions, which had merged.
In 2008, Durazo served as the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Convention Committee and as National Co-Chair of the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign. From 2006 through 2014, she was the first woman Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the second-largest labor council in the country, and she served on the National AFL-CIO Executive Council. Besides her union work, Durazo has served on many civic commissions and boards. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley appointed her to the Los Angeles Commission on Airports, Mayor Richard Riordan appointed her to the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission, and she has also served on the California State Coastal Commission.
In 2018, Durazo was elected to serve as Senator for Senate District 24, which includes Los Angeles neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Mt. Washington, Cypress Park, Lincoln Heights, Atwater Village, Elysian Valley, Arlington Heights, Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, East Hollywood, Little Armenia, Thai Town, Larchmont, Koreatown, Pico-Union, Westlake-MacArthur Park, Historic Filipinotown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Arts District, Civic Center, City Terrace, and East Los Angeles.
María Elena Durazo was married to the late union leader Miguel Contreras, who served as Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor from 1996 until his untimely death on May 6, 2005. She has two children with Miguel Contreras, Mario and Michael Contreras.