Maria Elena Durazo – 2017 Las Mujeres Award Honoree


The daughter of Mexican immigrant farm workers, Maria Elena Durazo 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 is Vice President for UNITE HERE International Union, which represents more than 270,000 hospitality workers in the U.S. and Canada. She 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. Maria Elena was the first Latina to be elected to the Executive Board of HERE International Union in 1996.

In 2003, Maria Elena became National Director of the Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride, a national campaign to address the nation’s immigration laws.

From 2006 to 2015, Maria Elena Durazo was the first woman elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. At the Federation, she represented the interests of more than 300 local unions. 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 currently serves as co-chair of the National AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee.

Maria Elena 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. She was recently re-elected as Vice-Chair for the Democratic National Committee.

A resident of Los Angeles, Maria Elena is the mother of two sons, Mario and Michael, grandmother to Seneka and Sydney, and the widow of Miguel Contreras. Maria Elena is a graduate of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, and earned a law degree from the People’s College of Law in 1985.

Join us for our 5th Annual Celebration as we honor her work.

a LOT to fight for