Eliseo Medina

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Eliseo Medina

Eliseo Medina is one of the U.S.'s most influential socialist labor union officials. He was described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the most successful labor organizers in the country" and was named one of the "Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders" in Poder Magazine.

He is currently leading the Service Employees International Union efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that "rebuilds the nation's economy, secures equal labor- and civil-rights protections for workers to improve their wages and work conditions and provides legal channels and a path to citizenship"[1].

Eliseo Medina co-founded Mi Familia Vota[2].

Eliseo Medina is married to Liza Hirsch.

Early life

When he was 10-years-old, Medina came to the United States from Mexico with his mother and siblings to join their father, who was an immigrant farm worker.[2]

Early activism

Medina's career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the United Farm Workers' strike in Delano, California. Over the next 13 years, Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and honed his skills as a union organizer and political strategist; eventually rising through the ranks to serve as the United Farm Workers' national vice president.[2]

His work with the union brought him to Chicago for a few years.[3]

Fred Ross influence

Fred Ross conceived the voter outreach strategy that not only elected Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’ first Latino Councilmember in 1949, but also laid the groundwork for the Obama campaign’s Latino voter outreach campaign in 2008. Ross trained UFW organizers Marshall Ganz, Miguel Contreras and Eliseo Medina in voter outreach strategies to reach “occasional” voting Latinos, and these three took what they learned to California politics. Ganz and Medina then brought this voter outreach model to the Obama campaign.[4]

UFW leaders 1973


The United Farm Workers Executive Board in 1973 included veteran farmworker organizers and activists:(l-r) Dolores Huerta, Mack Lyons, Richard Chavez, Cesar Chavez, Eliseo Medina, Philip Veracruz, Gilbert Padilla, Marshall Ganz and Pete Velasco.


Medina joined SEIU in 1986, where he helped revive a local union in San Diego--building its membership from 1,700 to over 10,000 in five years. He was a key strategist in the Los Angeles strike by SEIU Local 1877's building service workers, who in April 2000 won the largest wage increase in the 15-year history of SEIU's Justice for Janitors campaign.

Medina has served as international executive vice president of the SEIU since 1996, when he made history by becoming the first Mexican American elected to a top post at the 2.2 million-member SEIU. His work has helped make SEIU the fastest-growing union on the West Coast and the largest union in California. Since 1996, more than 1.2 million workers across the country have united with SEIU, the nation's largest union of health care workers and the union with the largest membership of immigrant workers.[2]

AFL-CIO policy

Claiming U.S. immigration policy is "broken and needs to be fixed," the AFL-CIO on February 16, 2000 called for a new amnesty for millions of undocumented workers and the repeal of the 1986 law that criminalized hiring them.

The position, adopted unanimously by the federation's executive council at its winter meeting in New Orleans, represents a dramatic shift for the AFL-CIO, which backed the so-called employer sanctions law 15 years ago.

Eliseo Medina, vice president of the Service Employees International Union, was among the early proponents of the new policy[5].

Electing Schiff and Harman

In early 2000, labor led a coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations in an amnesty campaign that filled the L.A. Sports Arena with sixteen thousand supporters inside and over four thousand more cheering outside. Miguel Contreras, along with Maria Elena Durazo and SEIU international vice president Eliseo Medina, set about to harness this power politically. They set up the Organization of Los Angeles Workers (OLAW) to develop a cadre of skilled union members who would be paid their regular salary to work with the union on political campaigns (these are known as lost-timers). In addition to HERE Local 11, SEIU Local 1877 (Justice for Janitors), and UNITE members, full-time walkers came initially from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, Clinica Romero (a Salvadoran immigrant solidarity organization), and a number of Mexican and Guatemalan hometown associations.

OLAW's first outing in 2000 focused sixty fulltime walkers on two Republican-occupied congressional districts. In a parallel effort the UFW took on a third congressional race in L.A. Operating outside traditionally acknowledged Latino communities, OLAW targeted fortythousand Latinos in these previously Republican districts for turnout, using candidate comparisons, a pledge card, and a “stand up and be counted” message to move these voters to the polls. Two of these three Republican seats became Democratic with the election of Adam Schiff and Jane Harman in the November election.[6]

Communist Party 2001 banquet

Keynote speaker Eliseo Medina, Service Employees International Union executive vice president, received a standing ovation at the People’s Weekly World banquet in Berkeley Nov. 18 2001, when he sharply criticized Republicans for killing an economic stimulus program that would have benefited working families.

Instead, Medina said, they substituted measures that are actually “aid to our favorite dependent corporations.”

Medina thankedd the World and Nuestro Mundo for continued coverage of labor struggles.

“Wherever workers are in struggle,” Medina said, “they find the PWW regularly reporting issues and viewpoints that are seldom covered by the regular media. For us, the PWW has been and always will be the people’s voice.”

In a moving tribute to the thousands of workers who died in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, Medina called special attention to those undocumented immigrant workers “who lived and died in the shadows,” and whose families cannot even ask for help.

While welcoming federalization of airport security screeners, he criticized Congress’ new requirement that screeners must now be U.S. citizens – though this is not required of airline pilots or members of the military. He said immigration laws should be changed to grant immigrants equal rights.

“[K]eep a sense of purpose,” he urged the audience, maintain a “sense of outrage.”

Fight back, he said, against those who use the post-Sept. 11 crisis “to scapegoat immigrants and minorities, to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and destroy what remains of government capacity to serve the great majority of people in this country.”[7]

Democratic Socialists of America

Medina's first interaction with the the fore-runners of Democratic Socialists of America came in Chicago when, as a young worker, he was sent by Cesar Chavez to lead the Chicago grape boycott campaign.

In 1969, Medina came into contact with Carl Marx Shier, a member of the local Socialist Party USA chapter and later to be one of the founders of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), the organization that preceded DSA.

Shier connected Medina with the Chicago Labor movement, a decision that "propelled Medina’s success with both the grape boycott and his career"[8].

In 2004 Eliseo Medina became a Democratic Socialists of America honorary chair[9]after the death of Millie Jeffrey.

Eliseo Medina, an Executive Vice-President of the Service Employees International Union, was elected an Honorary Chair of Democratic Socialists of America. Medina was elected to fill the vacancy created by the death of Millie Jeffrey earlier this year. The election was a unanimous vote of DSA's National Political Committee.

DSA award

Eliseo Medina, Carl Shier

Medina was the 2004 recipient of Chicago DSA's Debs-Thomas-Harrington Award[10].

Eliseo Medina
For your leadership in the struggle to bring justice to workers in the California vineyards;
For your contribution in the fight for justice waged by Los Angeles janitors who, with your guidance, won the biggest increases in your union's fifteen year campaign to raise the compensation levels of building service workers;
For your pioneering work in not only winning bargaining rights for low-paid home health care attendants, but for setting a high standard for others to meet by securing employer-paid health insurance for those same workers;
For your vital role in the AFL-CIO's reassessment of its immigration policy;
For the inspiration you have provided to thousands of workers spanning four decades in the labor movement;
The Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner Committee does hereby present you with its annual award this 7th day of May, 2004.

Equality and Jobs for the 99%:Economic Justice for All

A public event sponsored by Democratic Socialists of America, "Equality and Jobs for the 99%:Economic Justice for All", was held November 11, 2011; 7:00 p.m. at St. Stephen and Incarnation Church, 1525 Newton NW, Washington, D.C.

Speakers were;

DSA, the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International, is the largest socialist political organization in the country, with more than 6,000 members and active locals in more 40 U.S. cities and college campuses. DSA Locals in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Wichita, among others, have taken an active role in the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Freedom Plaza, and other Occupy protests in support of jobs and economic justice.

This meeting was organized in conjunction with the 15th National Convention of Democratic Socialists of America, which is being held at the Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner November 11-13, 2011.[11]

National Capital Immigration Coalition rally

September 7, 2006, the National Capital Immigration Coalition held a rally on the National Mall. The protest was billed by immigration rights groups as a post-Labor Day demonstration to show Congress that undocumented workers still wanted an immigration reform bill that would allow them to work in the country legally. Turnout for the march was lower than expected with several organizers attributing low numbers of attendees to the fact that in the four months since the first marches, competing immigration bills had stalled in the House and the Senate.

Speakers were Johari Abdul-Malik Chairman Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations, Deepak Bhargava Director Center for Community Change, Macrina Cardenas National Coordinator Mexico Solidarity Network, Jaime Contreras Chair National Capital Immigration Coalition, Francisco Gonzalez Valer Auxiliary Bishop Roman Catholic Church-Archdiocese of Washington, DC Bruce S. Gordon President and CEO NAACP, Luis Gutiérrez U.S. Representative [D] Illinois, Chung-Wha Hong Executive Director New York Immigration Coalition, Jose Hoyos Priest Roman Catholic Church-Arlington, VA, Sheila Jackson Lee U.S. Representative [D] Texas, Abdul Kamus Executive Director African Resource Center, Edward Kennedy U.S. Senator [D] Massachusetts, Carlos Lopez Laborer, Timothy McDonald Chairman African-American Ministers in Action, Eliseo Medina Executive Vice President Service Employees International Union, Janet Murguia President and CEO National Council of La Raza, Miguel Rivera President National Coalition of Latino Clergy, Rosa Rosales National President League of United Latin American Citizens, Gustavo Torres Executive Director CASA de Maryland, John Wilhelm President UNITE HERE->Hospitality Industry.[12]

Endorsed the People's World

People's World, 2007

In 2007, Eliseo Medina endorsed the Communist Party USA's People's World.

Immigration activism

According to the Democratic Socialists of America website Eliseo Medina is widely credited with playing a key role in the AFL-CIO's decision to adopt a new policy on immigration a few years ago, and was one of the organizers of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Bus Rides in 2003[13].

Medina worked hand in hand with UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm, to change AFL-CIO immigration policy at the 1999 Los Angeles Convention.

Medina was a close friend and ally, of the late, Los Angeles labor leader Miguel Contreras, a very prominent immigration activist.[14]

Obama's Latino Advisory Council

In August 2008 the Obama Campaign announced[15]the formation of its National Latino Advisory Council, highlighting the continued growth of support Senator Obama is receiving in the Latino community nationwide.[15]

According to the campaign, the advisory council is made up of key labor, faith, community leaders, and elected officials from across the country and will serve as an advisory council for the campaign on issues important to the Latino community as well as play an active role reaching out and organizing Latinos in their communities and across the country.

Its members included;

Federico Pena, Chair, National Hispanic Advisory Council, Former Mayor of Denver and Former Secretary of Transportation, National Obama Campaign Co-Chair; 
Geoconda Arguello-Kline, President, Nevada Culinary Workers Union
; Congressman Xavier Becerra; Adolfo Carrion, Bronx Borough President; 
Henry Cisneros, Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; 
Bishop Wilfredo De Jesus, Vice President of Social Justice, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; 
Congressman Charlie Gonzalez;
 Congressman Raul Grijalva
; Congressman Luis Gutierrez; 
Ambassador Luis Lauredo, Former Ambassador to the Organization of American States; 
Patricia Madrid, Former Attorney General of New Mexico; Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President, SEIU 
; Congresswoman Linda Sanchez; Congresswoman Hilda Solis; 
 Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

Immigration reform leader

According to the SEIU website Medina has played the leading role in uniting Change to Win and AFL-CIO behind the immigration reform movement:[2]

Working to ensure the opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform does not slip away, Medina led the effort to unite the unions of the Change to Win federation and AFL-CIO around a comprehensive framework for reform. Serving as a leading voice in Washington, frequently testifying before Congress, Medina has also helped to build a strong, diverse coalition of community and national partners that have intensified the call for reform and cultivated necessary political capitol to hold elected leaders accountable. Medina has also helped strengthen ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the labor movement to work on common concerns such as immigrant worker rights and access to health care.

SB1070 march, Phoenix

The Phoenix 5 mile march and rally held Saturday, May 29, 2010, in solidarity against SB1070 was quite a sight to see.

SEIU Executive VP Eliseo Medina joined a laundry list of influential minds including Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, National Day Laborer Organizing Network Executive Director Pablo Alvarado, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Co-founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, singers Jenni Rivera and Alex Lora of El Tri.[16]

Immigration reform for a "governing coalition"

We will be creating a governing coalition for the long term

At the America's Future Now! conference in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 2009, SEIU International Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina addressed attendees on the necessity of comprehensive immigration reform.

Speaking of Latino voters, Medina said "when they voted in November, they voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got two out of every three voters that showed up"

So I think there's two things that matter for the progressive community.
Number one, if we are to expand this electorate to win, the progressive community needs to solidly be on the side of immigrants, that we'll expand and solidify the progressive coalition for the future..."
When you are in the middle of a fight for your life you will remember who was there with you. And immigrants count on progressives to be able to do that.
Number two.
"We reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters". Can you imagine if we have, even the same ratio, two out of three?
If we have eight million new voters who care about ...... and will be voting. We will be creating a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle...

Supporting Democratic Socialists of America


Key SEIU leaders Mary Kay Henry, Eliseo Medina, Mitch Ackerman, Kirk Adams, Gerry Hudson, Eileen Kirlin, Dave Regan and Tom Woodruff placed and ad in Democratic Left Winter 2011/2012 edition praising Democratic Socialists of America. [17]

Attacking the Republicans

The "continued anti-immigrant push by the GOP" has prompted the SEIU to "plan an all-out campaign against GOP anti-immigrant legislation, and to remind Latinos, unionists, and other voters in 2014 and 2016 of the party's intolerance, Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina says".

The campaign of door-knocking, demonstrations, leafleting, voter registration and more will target congressional districts of key lawmakers, he said. "You name it, we'll do it." .

Medina was responding soon after the Judiciary panel, along party lines, put a bill through the House to prevent implementation of President Obama's order telling federal agencies not to arrest and deport "DREAMers" - young people now in college or the military who came to the U.S. as undocumented children.

And on June 18, the Judiciary Committee, again along party lines, approved the so-called "Safe Act," the federal equivalent of Arizona's SB1070. Both the Arizona law and the Safe Act let local law enforcement stop, detain and deport people who don't "look" as if they're legal. Medina called the Safe Act "ideological and divisive."

Labor supports comprehensive reform, including legalization and eventual citizenship - after at least 13 years - for the nation's 7.5 million undocumented workers and 3.5 million undocumented kids. As the House panel worked, labor, lawmakers, and Latino organizations called the GOP law an open invitation to racism and racial profiling.

"This extremist and radical legislation contradicts what Americans want to see from Congress," namely comprehensive reform with an eventual path to legalization and citizenship for the undocumented, plus secure borders, Medina told a rain-soaked crowd on the Capitol grounds as the panel - indoors - shoved the Safe Act through.

Led by immigration reform negotiator Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., Judiciary Committee Democrats ducked out of the work session to support the undocumented people, Dreamers, and others gathered outside. "You cannot start by saying 11 million people are rapists, murderers, drug dealers, and gangbangers," Gutierrez said of the GOP's attitude.

"This is what they think of our community," added Medina, the son of immigrants.

"We are listening and will respond accordingly. If they thought 2012 was bad" in terms of the tide of Latino votes against the GOP, "wait 'till 2014 and 2016. There are 50 million reasons that the adults in the Republican Party should step in and stop this."[18]

Hunger strike

Cristian Avila, Dae Jung Yoon, Eliseo Medina

December 4, 2013, saying their 22-day "fast for families" to demand Congress approve comprehensive immigration reform had gotten worldwide attention, former Service Employees Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina and his fasting colleagues ended their D.C. vigil by handing off the fast to a group of successors.

The fast drew continued attention to the issue, and support from Democrats all the way up to President Obama, who visited the fasters in their tent at the foot of Capitol Hill on Dec. 1. But it did not budge the decision-makers it targeted: the anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic GOP majority in the U.S. House.

Medina "handed over" his fast to Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., and the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners. In a joint statement, Medina and his fellow fasters said "we fasted in the shadow of the Capitol to call attention to the human suffering caused by our broken immigration system. We believe we have raised awareness about families being ripped apart by deportations, immigrants dying in the desert and millions of people living in fear every day.

Medina and the other fasters, supported and escorted by their friends and colleagues - including SEIU President Mary Kay Henry - weakly walked to the center carpet behind the mike and sat patiently waiting for the symbolic end of their fast: Bread and liquids offered by two Catholic prelates, including Cardinal Emeritus Theodore McCarrick of D.C. They then left, with their escorts, for a medical checkup.

Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota, and Dae Jung Yoon, with the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium also struck.[19]

Visit from Obama

Barack Obama, Eliseo Medina, December 2013

Eliseo Medina is former Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union and veteran immigration reform advocate. December 6, 2013 Medina just concluded 22 days of fasting on the National Mall where he was visited by President Barack Obama last weekend.[20]

Abdelnasser Rashid supporters


Abdelnasser Rashid supporters Clem Balanoff, Ahlam Jbara, Eliseo Medina.

Huerta, Medina Rodriguez Join Hillary for California

Los Angeles, CA – May 17, 2016, Hillary for California announced that Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina will join the campaign team as senior advisors. Huerta and Medina will build on the campaign’s robust outreach to the Latino community in California and work with the campaign’s senior team to organize and engage Californians in conversations about Hillary Clinton's plans to break down barriers and help move the country forward.

“We are thrilled to be joined by two incredibly accomplished and admired leaders in the Latino, immigrant and labor communities, Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina,” said Buffy Wicks , State Director for Hillary for California. “Their advocacy and leadership, along with Gabriel Rodriguez’s focus on Latino GOTV, will go a long way in continuing the important work of reaching every California voter in advance of the June 7 primary.”

Dolores Huerta made history leading the 1965 grape boycott to achieve better working conditions for predominantly Latino, immigrant farmworkers. She is the co-founder of United Farm Workers (UFW) and an internationally recognized leader in the labor, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights movements. Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU, is one of the most successful labor organizers in the country and a tireless advocate for immigration reform. Gabriel Rodriguez has been with the Hillary for America campaign since February and has served in similar roles in Colorado, Illinois, Arizona, New York, and Connecticut.[21]

NAKASEC "Fast for Families"


NAKASEC "Fast for families" Google hangout, march 14, 2014.

Midwest Academy 2013 Awards

Midwest Academy Awards, December 2013, went to;[22]

2009 15th Anniversary Fundraiser "Rooted in Movement"

Standing Up for Justice Awardee Rep. Luis Gutierrez

In 2009, NAKASEC held a fundraiser called "Rooted in Movement."[23],[24]

Standing Up for Justice Awardees

DREAM In Action Youth Awardees

Host Committee

External links


  1. Medina's profile with SEIU
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Election 2020: Advocates fight misinformation to get out the vote in rural Southern California (accessed March 21, 2021)
  3. Chicago Newsletter with a letter from Medina
  4. BeyondChron Blog, National Campaign Urges Obama to Award Presidential Medal of Freedom to Legendary Organizer Fred Ross, by Randy Shaw‚ Feb. 13‚ 2013
  5. http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/salton/AFL-CIOAmnestyForIllegals.html
  6. Power in Los Angeles 7-8
  7. N. Calif. PWW banquet raises $ 11,000, by: Evelina Alarcon, December 7 2001
  8. http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=367x13108
  9. http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng96.html
  10. http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2004.html
  11. Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio website, accessed November 2, 2011
  12. CSPAN, SEPTEMBER 7, 2006 Immigration Rally
  13. http://www.dsausa.org/LatestNews/2004/medina.html
  14. Implications of the SEIU/UniteHere Settlement, by Randy Shaw
  15. 15.0 15.1 http://rootswire.org/conventionblog/patricia-madrid-named-obamas-national-latino-advisory-council
  16. SEIU Blog, National Resistance to SB 1070 Escalates; Thousands March in Phoenix on May 29th By Kate Thomas June 1, 2010
  17. Dem. Left, Winter 2011/2012
  18. Service Employees plan massive response to GOP’s immigrant bashing, by: Mark Gruenberg June 20 2013
  19. PW. Medina, other immigration reform fasters, step aside for reinforcements, by: Mark Gruenberg, December 4 2013
  20. [http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/06/opinion/medina-immigration-fast/CNN, Why I didn't eat for 22 days By Eliseo Medina December 6, 2013]
  21. Hillary for California press release, Hillary Clinton « Press Release on California Latino Outreach May 17, 2016 Dolores Huerta, Eliseo Medina Join Hillary for California as Senior Advisors; Gabriel Rodriguez Announced as Latino Outreach Coordinator
  22. FB, Midwest Academy 1 December 2013
  23. Event: NAKASEC 15th Anniversary Celebration: Rooted in Movement, accessed January 14 2018
  24. CCC’s Executive Director to Receive “Standing up for Justice” Award from NAKASEC, accessed January 14 2018