Throughout National Hispanic Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO will be profiling labor leaders and activists to spotlight the diverse contributions Hispanics and Latinos have contributed to our movement. Today's profile features Esther López.
López first connected with the labor movement in high school. Because she was bilingual, she volunteered to register Latino voters and get them to the polls. From there, she never turned back.
As her post-school career progressed, she began to play an active role in improving labor conditions in Illinois. She served as deputy chief of staff for the state's Department of Labor before going on to lead the department.
In November 2006, López joined the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) as director of the Civil Rights and Community Action Department. She served on the front lines of battles against voter suppression, ending exploitation of refugees, expanding opportunities for women and pursuing LGBTQ equality, including overseeing the launch of UFCW's LGBTQ constituency group, OUTreach. She created the UFCW's Union Citizenship Action Network (UCAN), which focused on helping union members get on the path to ctizenship. She is recognized as a national leader on immigration reform and civil, human and labor rights.
In 2016, López was elected to the position of international secretary-treasurer for UFCW, and she was re-elected at the union's 2018 convention in Las Vegas. She also currently serves on the national boards of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Jobs With Justice, the Center for Community Change, the National Consumers League and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.