On the evening of May 6, 2005, organized labor and the IATSE lost one of our best friends and champions. Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, passed away after suffering from a massive coronary.
Miguel began his work life at five, in the fields of Central California and grew to be one of the most powerful and influential leaders on today’s labor landscape. His commitment and passion to working families mirrored that of his mentor, Cesar Chavez with whom he and his family worked during the grape boycott of the 60s. He used to joke that during the United Farmworkers Campaign his mother had to bail out all her sons and his father at the same time.
Through the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Miguel built a formidable coalition of 345 different unions, in part by pulling diverse unions together through strikes and contract campaigns. Called a “kingmaker” and considered one of the shrewdest labor leaders in the country, Miguel is credited with re-energizing Southern California labor and setting the bar for obtaining and wielding political clout for working families on a local and state level. Southern California was touted by many as an example of what can be achieved when unions combine forces and works together.
Miguel’s friendship with and support of the IATSE never wavered. He responded to the needs of the IATSE, stepping in behind the scenes during the turmoil surrounding the EIDC re-structuring, and working with the coalition of Hollywood unions in the attempt to pass legislation designed to make California a more production friendly state. Miguel Contreras was a rare individual. He was a man of great wit, a true friend of the International and a lifelong champion for working families. His loss will be felt for a long time to come. Our greatest tribute to Miguel is to continue the fight to fulfill his vision and dreams.