Connie Leyva Biography
Connie M. Leyva currently serves as President of the California Labor Federation and as President of UFCW Local 1428 in Claremont, Ca. Leyva also serves as a Vice President on the International Executive Board of the UFCW.
Connie Leyva joined Local 1428 as a member in 1985 during her senior year in high school, while working for Alpha Beta. She worked her way through college, graduating in 1991 from the University of Redlands with a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders. She started working at Local 1428 in 1994 in the Benefits Department. She became a Union Representative in 1995; and in early 2002 she was elected President of Local 1428, becoming the first woman president of a UFCW local in Southern California.
As President of UFCW Local 1428, Leyva continues to be a pivotal leader in the labor movement. Recently she was instrumental in the tenuous contract negotiations involving 62,000 grocery workers here in Southern California. After 8 long months of negotiating, Leyva credits the successful settlement to a very strong UFCW membership and community support. “Negotiating good contracts for workers is the life’s blood of the Union, I do this diligently and proudly”, Leyva says.
Leyva has been recognized by many organizations (The Latina and Latino Roundtable of the Pomona and San Gabriel Valley, The UCLA Labor Center, SOL (Strengthening our Lives), Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the California Teachers Association) for her leadership in the labor movement and for her dedication to worker’s right and her work toward building better communities by committing her time and the resources of Local 1428 toward several community service projects for example the adoption of Kingsley Elementary school in Montclair, Ca., and donating to Shoes That Fit. Local 1428 also houses The Giving Back Food Pantry, a brainchild of Leyva. Leyva’s motto is “Let’s leave the world better than we found it”.
An activist in all aspects of her life, Leyva continues to work tirelessly to elect friends of working people to office in many federal, state and local political campaigns. Leyva states, “It is important to elect people who share our vision for our members, working families and our communities”.
Leyva comes from a union upbringing, her father was a supermarket worker who belonged to UFCW Local 1428 and her mother was a member of CSEA (California State Employees Association) for 35 years. She met her husband, Albert, when both were working at an Alpha Beta supermarket. Leyva and her husband have two daughters, Allie and Jessie who attend college in Chicago. Leyva and her husband reside in Chino, Ca.
Topics Connie can speak about
Collective Bargaining, Gender and Labor, Labor Movement, Labor and Politics, Organizing, Unions, Women and Work, Worker Rights,
How and why did you become involved in the labor movement?
I started working at local 1428 as a temporary employee after being a member for about 10 years, after the first week I knew I wanted to be a Union Representative, I wanted to fight for workers rights! I have never had a problem speaking up for myself but I wanted to help others who were too shy and/or afraid. Those are the workers who get taken advantage of, it seemed unfair to me and I thought I could help.
What is the greatest challenge facing labor today?
Hands down it is labor leaders who don’t want to change and adapt to the times that we live in or retire. Also, we allow the media to control our message and we have allowed the right wing to co-opt everything labor stands for. The labor movement fights for good jobs with good wages and healthcare, which affects all of our families and their lives, but somehow we have allowed the right wing to be the party about values.
How have you made a difference in the labor movement?
I like to think I make some small difference everyday by changing people’s perception of labor and unions. Fundamentally I feel that I have changed the way we do business by bringing honesty and integrity to everything we do at UFCW 1428. I am always willing to stand up for what is right and take on the good fight, even when I am the only one standing.
What is your most powerful memory as a labor leader or activist?
Easily this last round of Master Food Negotiations, which occurred in 2011. We knew the employers had the money but were unwilling to part with enough to keep our members medical benefits in tact. We had to figure out how to get enough money, it was incredibly hard and took 8 months. It was harder negotiations than when we ended up on strike. The most powerful part was everything that went into activating our members and the hard, hard asks we had of them, 2 strike votes and delivering the 72 hour notice to strike. Once we settled the contract without a strike and saved their benefits the ratification meetings were nothing short of amazing! I was so proud of my members.
What can students do today to get involved in the Labor Movement?
Invite leaders or good unionist to speak in their classrooms to inspire themselves and other students. Shadow a union leader or volunteer to work at the union office. Volunteer with a union during a political election.
What labor leader, past or present, had the biggest influence on you?
There are so few women in leadership roles within the labor movement and especially the UFCW that I really looked at many of my peers and used their example of what I didn’t want to do or become. However the labor leader I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for is Maria-Elena Durazo of the LA County Federation of Labor. Maria-Elena ALWAYS puts the members/workers first. I try to follow that example everyday.
How can students and faculty connect with you?
I like to be emailed for personal contact. however I do have a Facebook book account and so does the local, and we have a local website http://www.ufcw1428.org