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Ron Herrera Resigns as Labor Federation President in Wake of Racist Scandal Following Outcry From Labor Unions


Ron Herrera
Ron Herrera

Labor Federation President Ron Herrera has resigned from his position in the wake of a race-based scandal that has rocked local LA politics, including Hollywood’s labor unions, all of whom called for Herrera’s immediate resignation.

Herrera stepped down from his position on Tuesday morning following the release of recordings that exposed racist comments made by prominent Los Angeles leaders Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León, and Nury Martinez during a recent LA County Federation of Labor meeting. Herrera didn’t make any racist comments himself, and he did attempt to refocus the efforts of the offending group, but he did not speak out against the others and basically went along with the whole thing, which is entirely unbecoming of a leader. 

Below the Line has chosen to refrain from reprinting these comments, but suffice to say, they were ugly and wholly uncalled for, as you can tell from the statements below.

“The calls for accountability are loud clear and deserved. I recognize that the community and our affiliates deserved an apology earlier and I am sorry this has not been the case. I had to face my family and granddaughters personally and apologize to them for my failure to stand up to racist and anti-Black remarks in that immediate moment. I failed them in the moment and for that I hold the deepest regret,” Herrera said in a statement released on Sunday night.

“And now, I apologize to all of you, Mike Bonin and his family, the affiliates and community members, specifically those in the Black and Oaxacan community. There is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period. And I didn’t step up to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward. I will do better and I hope that all of you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.”

“These comments have no place in our state, or in our politics, and we must all model better behavior to live the values that so many of us fight every day to protect,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

“Racism in any form has no place in the House of Labor,” the union’s Executive Board Chairman Thom Davis added in a statement. “It is unconscionable that those elected to fight for our communities of color would engage in repulsive and vile anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Asian and anti-Oaxacan remarks that pit our working communities against each other. These sentiments will not be tolerated by our organization or those who we represent.”

As noted at the top, Hollywood’s labor unions also weighed in, and they carry significant political weight given the totality of their constituencies.

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, the California IATSE Council said it “cannot, and will not, tolerate racism in any form. What took place at the October 2021 meeting flies in the face of everything that we stand for. The core value of the Labor movement is equality and justice for all without regard for the color of your skin, the language you speak, or whom you choose to love. We represent all our IATSE members with that commitment first and foremost. The CIC is appalled by the behavior and racist comments expressed at that meeting. We join with many others in calling for the immediate resignations of all Los Angeles City Council members who were involved.”

It was actually Teamsters Local 399 that first called for Herrera’s resignation, saying in a statement:

“Outside of the abhorrent comments shared by these elected leaders, the context of the conversation also appears to reveal plans to create further division among working families in Los Angeles. The inability to stand up against racist rhetoric, while also simultaneously asking our labor body to continue to support these candidates, is unacceptable. President Herrera can no longer function in a role that requires him to bring diverse groups together. An essential aspect of building strength and power for working families throughout Los Angeles.

Teamsters Local 399 is calling for his immediate resignation so that our LA Labor Federation’s Vice Presidents, Union Affiliates and Union members can regroup and reshape the leadership structure of this important coalition. One that promotes inclusivity and anti-racism principles.

Should the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor continue to remain under the leadership of President Herrera, Local 399 Principal Officer, and one of the Vice Presidents on the LA Federation of Labor Board, Lindsay Dougherty, has asked the Local 399 Executive Board to immediately remove itself from the organization and withhold any further support or contributions. The 399 Executive Board has approved said motion.

Our solidarity is our greatest strength in the labor movement to organize, mobilize and protect working families throughout Los Angeles. The elected officials we endorse and rely on must be committed to the safety and prosperity of all working people. We must all continue to work together and demand better.

SAG-AFTRA also joined the fray, releasing a statement saying that the organization “unequivocally condemns the racist and homophobic comments of Los Angeles City Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León, and Nury Martinez, and the failure of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera to confront and condemn that misconduct as it occurred.

Racism and homophobia have no place in the labor movement, government, or society. All leaders must be held to a higher standard that centers on anti-racism and immediately calls out discrimination and hateful comments in the moment.

While the city council members are elected representatives who serve Los Angeles citizens, the LACFL represents more than 800,000 workers in the county, many of whom are people of color and LGBTQIA+. The racism and homophobia expressed by council members and condoned by Herrera during the meeting [are] inexcusable. It creates and fosters division and animosity within and between Los Angeles communities. There is no excuse for this breach of trust.

Our leaders must be held to a higher standard and work together in the fight for respect, equity, and justice in our shared communities. The behavior exhibited by all of the attendees at the meeting is unacceptable. Those who participated in this conversation must demonstrate accountability for their words and actions by stepping down and making space for leaders who can credibly champion the cause of anti-racism and inclusion.”

Clearly, Herrera’s Sunday night apology was not enough, as actions speak louder than words, and by Tuesday, he was out. If we truly want to stomp out racism, we have to be willing to call it out when we see it, first.

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