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For the first time ever, two Orange County labor leaders will serve on the board California’s largest labor organization.
At a meeting in Oakland last Thursday, the California Labor Federation’s executive council voted to appoint Jennifer Muir, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, and Julio Perez, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, to its ranks.
“Orange County has unfortunately long been the birthplace of hostile political initiatives aimed at undermining the rights and security of workers everywhere,” Muir said in a statement.
“But today, standing together with workers across the state, Orange County’s unions are working to protect and expand the middle class way of life our grandparents’ generation built brick by brick, and to ensure that every working woman and man has access to a family supporting job, adequate housing, and quality affordable education for themselves and their children.”
Perez’s group is the umbrella organization for a coalition of local labor unions. He said the historic appointment of two leaders from Orange County shows how far the movement has come in one of the most hostile environments in the state.
“That’s a big deal for us,” Perez said in an interview. “We’ve changed a lot in Orange County,” adding that people are “seeing the fruits of the California labor fed really coming up.”
Orange County has been “very innovative in terms of labor operating in some not-so-progressive communities, and I believe that’s why we got appointed, to bring some of that insight of operating in the right wing” areas, he said.
“The rest of California doesn’t look like LA or San Francisco. It looks much more like Orange County.”
Perez said he and Muir are looking forward to replicating some of their work statewide.
The state labor federation serves more than 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions. Collectively, they represent 2.1 million workers in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries
OCEA represents 18,000 municipal workers across Orange County, including public health nurses, safety officers, social workers and others. Nick Berardino, Muir’s predecessor at OCEA, had also served on the state federation’s board.
The appointments come two years after Tefere Gebre, Perez’s predecessor at the Orange County federation, was elected as executive vice president of America’s largest union federation, the AFL-CIO.