María Elena Durazo is an American trade union official. Durazo served as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO from May 2006 to October 2014. Durazo is currently the General Vice President for Immigration, Civil Rights, and Diversity for UNITE HERE, a nonprofit changing lives by improving wages and benefits in thousands of traditionally low-wage sectors, creating jobs that sustain families. She also serves as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee of the Democratic Party.
Durazo began her involvement in the labor movement as an organizer for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. In 1983, she joined the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 11. From May 1989 to March 2006, Durazo was the president of UNITE-HERE Local 11. Her participation allowed her to be elected to the executive board of HERE International Union in 1996. Further, in 2004, she was elected Executive Vice President of UNITE-HERE International. From 2000 to 2004 she served on the National AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee and is now the Chair of the committee. In 2003, Durazo became the National Director of the Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride.
On January 15, 2008 Durazo endorsed Barack Obama for president and took a three week leave of absence from her job as Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor in order to campaign for Obama. She then became a national co-chair of the Obama for President campaign committee and was a pledged delegate for Obama at the National Convention in Denver. She served as Vice Chair on the 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee. On August 11, 2008 Durazo was elected to serve as the new chair of the UCLA Labor Center advisory committee. The vote was by acclamation. In 2010 Durazo was elected onto the national AFL-CIO Executive Council as Executive Vice President. She was also elected as a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2013. In 2014 Durazo left AFL-CIO to to join UNITE HERE full time.
The New York Times acknowledged that “as the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, she presides over what is widely perceived as the most successful group of unions in the country.”
Los Angeles Times’ featured stories reporter Joe Mozingo wrote that “Maria Elena Durazo is probably the single most influential individual in Los Angeles politics.”
CNN’s top news anchor in the Spanish language, Ismael Cala, said on-air that “We are proud that a woman who has had on her life story the opportunity to see from the field the issue of immigrants’ rights has become a voice for so many who cannot raise their own voices.”
Capitol Weekly named Maria Elena the third most influential non-elected California official in its 2010 Top 100 List.