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Laura Reyes
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Laura Reyes is the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.6 million workers. She was elected at the union’s 40th International Convention in June 2012.

A native of San Diego, Calif., Reyes grew up in a union family, her father and grandfather both advocates for workers’ rights. Laura taught preschool and saw first-hand the challenges faced by many education workers. Her first child, Damian, was born at 28 weeks with a brain hemorrhage. The doctors informed her that her son would have severe Cerebral Palsy, unable to speak and confined to a wheelchair. Reyes gave up her job and became a home care provider to care for Damian full time. Today, Damian is a college student, majoring in biology.

In 2002, Reyes joined the United Domestic Workers (UDW) Homecare Providers Union/AFSCME Local 3930. Her leadership as a rank-and-file activist in the union led to her election as a delegate to the AFSCME convention for the first time in 2006. She became a member of the committee that modernized and wrote the present UDW constitution to make it more member-focused. Reyes was elected UDW President in 2008 and an AFSCME International Vice President in 2009.

As president of UDW, she led the largest AFSCME affiliate in California. Reyes led organizing drives that grew the union from 20,000 to approximately 62,000 home care providers. She also led the effort to restore fiscal health within the union. She held house meetings where members discussed the very serious issues affecting clients and providers in California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. Through legislative and political action efforts, she held off cuts to the IHSS program. And as a bilingual activist, Reyes helped non-English speaking workers navigate the often complicated bureaucracy.

Reyes serves as a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which guides the daily work of the labor federation. She is a member of the Executive Council committee on Immigration, which is taking a leading role in the debate over immigration reform. She also serves on the AFL-CIO committees on Women Workers, Civil and Human Rights, Older and Retired Workers and Union Repositioning. She is a member of the Board of Emerge America, a unique program designed to identify, train and encourage women to run for office.

Reyes is actively engaged in developing the AFSCME Women’s Leadership Academy to increase the number of women in all levels of the union’s leadership. She coordinates the efforts of AFSCME’s Next Wave initiative to encourage and develop the next generation of union leadership. She also leads the union’s efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Reyes is the single mother of three children, Damian, Christian and Diana Ruth.

Entries by Laura Reyes

Our Children Need to Hear Us Talk About Unions

(8) Comments | Posted May 6, 2015 | 9:59 PM

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Recently, a friend shared on Facebook a roughly 35-year-old photograph of himself as a toddler, toted in his father's arms on a union picket line. In our current climate of relentless attacks on unions, it seemed simultaneously quaint and bold. A colleague of...

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Our Nation's Pay Policies Are Due for a Checkup

(1) Comments | Posted April 16, 2015 | 11:34 AM

This month the White House and the Department of Labor are launching a cross-country tour to promote paid sick leave and family leave policies for American workers. Unions like ours have been fighting for universal paid leave for decades. But we live in a political climate where the voices of...

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For Women, History is Happening Now

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2015 | 2:04 PM

I recently had the chance to walk in labor legend Dolores Huerta's shoes, as part of a celebration of Women's History Month. I joined my sisters from other labor unions putting voice to our history, in my case, playing Huerta, who along with César Chávez founded the United Farm Workers....

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Why the Fight for Pay Equity Is So Important

(0) Comments | Posted February 3, 2015 | 4:17 PM

Right now across America, women are working to pay their bills, put food on the table for their families, slowly chip away at their mounting debt and student loans, or to even save a little for their own children to go to college. With the shifting workforce in this country,...

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Pregnancy Should Not Be a Disqualification

(10) Comments | Posted December 9, 2014 | 1:33 PM

Pregnancy should not cost women their paychecks. But that's exactly what happened to UPS delivery driver Peggy Young when she became pregnant in 2006.

Under doctor's orders not to lift anything weighing more than 20 pounds, she asked her employer for light-duty work, an accommodation UPS is required to give...

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#TurnOutForWhat? Our Values, For a Start

(0) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 4:14 PM

I don't turn out to vote for candidates or a particular political party. Yes, I press a button next to the name of a candidate. And yes, that candidate is typically from an organized party.

But for as long as I've been voting, I come out to cast a...

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The Death of Maria Fernandes Demands a Call to Action

(3) Comments | Posted September 9, 2014 | 2:02 PM

When I heard about the death of Maria Fernandes, an exhausted worker who died while napping in her car between two of her four jobs, I felt an immense sadness that quickly turned to anger. Maria was a victim of an economic condition that grinds up low-wage workers,...

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#WEmatter and We Demand Change

(1) Comments | Posted August 26, 2014 | 11:28 AM

For too long the needs of women and families have been dismissed by our elected officials, as if women, who make up more than 50 percent of the population, are a special interest group seeking special treatment. It is way past time Congress understood that our issues are not an...

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The Supreme Court's Crafty Minefield

(26) Comments | Posted July 4, 2014 | 5:04 PM

Back in February in this space, I posed a question about the Harris v. Quinn case then before the Supreme Court. That question: Would a majority of justices side with hard-working women and men trying to strengthen their voice on the job through their union, or would they...

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What Moms Really Want

(0) Comments | Posted May 8, 2014 | 4:05 PM

Mother's Day is coming up this weekend, so the airwaves are thick with commercials for greeting cards, department and jewelry stores, and flower delivery services all urging us to honor our mothers.

Much attention was paid a few weeks ago to one such ad, an American Greetings...

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Paul Ryan and the Politics That Turn Stomachs

(17) Comments | Posted March 10, 2014 | 6:47 PM

It's hard to imagine conservative political ideology becoming so twisted that one of its standard bearers would step up to a podium and assert poor children are better off going hungry.

Yet when Paul Ryan addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week he did just...

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The Sexist Agenda Hidden in Harris v. Quinn

(16) Comments | Posted February 12, 2014 | 10:37 AM

On its surface, the case known as Harris v. Quinn now before the Supreme Court is yet another attempt to kill off public employee unions. It centers on a small group of home health care aides in Illinois who sued to avoid paying fees to the very union that negotiated...

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Vermont Home Care Providers Come Together With AFSCME

(2) Comments | Posted May 29, 2013 | 4:08 PM

I am in Vermont today as thousands of home care providers in the Green Mountain State file for the largest union election in the state's history. I know first-hand the struggle home care providers face. I also know the power and possibilities that are created when providers come...

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Thinking of Home Care Workers on Mother's Day

(1) Comments | Posted May 10, 2013 | 1:53 PM

More than 125,000 home care providers are a part of AFSCME. I am one of them. I became a home care worker after the birth of my first son. He was born premature and the doctors indicated that he would not be able to walk or talk. I became a...

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We Need to Fight for Equal Pay, Today and Everyday

(35) Comments | Posted April 9, 2013 | 7:55 AM

Fifty years ago, when Pres. John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, he attacked "the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job." While the act prohibits arbitrary discrimination in women's pay, President Kennedy's hope that the practice would end has...

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When Sequestration Hits, Women and Children Bear Heavy Burden of Cuts

(3) Comments | Posted February 28, 2013 | 2:43 PM

There is a deadline coming this Friday. On March 1, the federal budget cuts known as "sequestration" are scheduled to take effect, forcing nearly $85 billion in drastic and completely unnecessary budget cuts to programs Americans rely on daily. These cuts are easily preventable, but too many politicians in...

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