Antonio Villaraigosa

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Antonio Villaraigosa


Antonio Villaraigosa, born in 1953 as Tony Villar, is a former Mayor of Los Angeles.

In 2005, with the support of a leftist led citywide coalition, Antonio Villaraigosa became the first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles since 1872. Before his election he was a Los Angeles City Councilman, California State Assemblyman and Speaker of the California State Assembly.[1]

Early life

Antonio Villar was raised without a father and went off the rails as a teen, before straightening himself out to study law.

Radicalization

MECHA leader Antonio Villaraigosa, circa 1974 (center)

For many years Villaraigosa has been a close friend of Gilbert Cedillo, who he met at Los Angeles' Roosevelt High.

Through an Upward Bound program, Cedillo was accepted at UCLA, Villaraigosa went to East Los Angeles College and then transferred to UCLA. The friends both became active in Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan or MEChA, a radical Chicano seperatist group with a strong Marxist-Leninist underpinning.

Both attended the Peoples College of Law, a night school dedicated to producing public-interest lawyers. (Villaraigosa took the bar exam four times, but never passed)[2].

Peoples College of Law was founded in 1974 the Asian Law Collective, the La Raza National Lawyers Association, the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the National Lawyers Guild.

Villaraigosa visited Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade. He and Cedillo became deeply involved in Centros de Accion Social Autonomo, or CASA, an immigrant’s-rights organization led by the Mexican-American Communist Party USA leader Bert Corona.

Villaraigosa and Cedillo and worked on the CASA newspaper, Sín Fronteras. “At CASA, we wanted to organize the undocumented into unions, instead of seeing them as a threat,” Cedillo said[3].

By his late teens, he had anchored himself to the movement -- and to the legendary Bert Corona, a radical organizer and proponent of immigrant rights who nonetheless functioned in mainstream politics. (Corona played a key role in Robert Kennedy‘s 1968 presidential campaign.) With Gil Cedillo and Maria Elena Durazo (much later to become president of the L.A. local of the hotel and restaurant workers), Villaraigosa became a full-time organizer at Corona’s Centro de Action Social Autonoma, CASA for short.

Villaraigosa then turned his organizing skills to the union movement. As shop steward for a local representing federal civil rights lawyers, he found an L.A. office where just a quarter of the attorneys were organized, and enrolled nearly 90 percent of them in the union. He soon went on the staff of UTLA, Los Angeles‘ teachers union, and when the union struck the school district in 1989, Villaraigosa was given the difficult task of building strike support in South-Central -- which, through an ambitious program of house meetings, he did. Soon thereafter, Gloria Molina appointed him to the MTA board, where he was the only member to support the demands of the fledgling Bus Riders Union, and where he won support to reduce fares to 50 cents. In 1994, he was elected to the Assembly. A scant four years later, through the miracle of term limits and his own considerable political abilities, he was elected speaker.

Anthony Thigpenn, who, as the leader of the L.A. Metro Alliance, is probably the most successful community organizer in South-Central, first met Villaraigosa in the mid-’80s, when Villaraigosa co-chaired, with Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Black-Latino Roundtable. The goal of the organization, says Thigpenn, was “to create a common agenda, to assert we have more in common than we have in opposition.” Thigpenn sees Villaraigosa‘s mayoral campaign “as a historic moment in Los Angeles, in terms of getting the most progressive mayor the city has ever seen, who has a vision, a commitment, a strategy to bring all parts of the city together. We want to be a part of that historic moment.” [4]

Bert Corona admirer

"Renewed class struggle in these societies will lead to new forms of social arrangements," he said. "The workers of East Germany, for example, aren't about to give up easily many of the supports they had under socialism, such as low rents and free education for their children." With his stirring defense of socialism, Los Angeles activist Bert Corona earned icon status with the left wing of the Democratic Party, becoming a hero to state politicians such as Tom Hayden, Sheila Kuehl, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo and Assembly speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, among others. [5]

"Community organizer"

Writing in the Huffington Post of September 8, 2008, in an article entitled "From Organizer To Elected Official" Democratic Socialists of America member Peter Dreier listed several serving US politicians who had begun their careers as "community organizers". They were US Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Representatives John Lewis of Georgia, Jan Schakowsky and Danny Davis of Illinois, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Linda Sanchez of California, and Donna Edwards of Maryland, Washington House of Representatives Speaker Frank Chopp, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, state legislators Beth Low of Missouri, Michael Foley of Ohio, Gilbert Cedillo of California, Tom Hucker of Maryland, Tony Hill of Florida, and Crystal Peoples of New York, Alameda County (California) Supervisor Nate Miley, City Council members Jay Westbrook of Cleveland, Chuck Turner and Sam Yoon of Boston, and Melvin Carter of St. Paul, and San Francisco School Board member Jane Kim. [6]

Socialists organize to "challenge for power" in Los Angeles

Trevor email 1 (3).jpg

On March 11, 1998, Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America leader Steve Tarzynski wrote an email to another Los Angeles DSA leader Harold Meyerson.

Tarzynski listed 25 people he thought should be on an "A-list" of "25 or so leaders/activists/intellectuals and/or "eminent persons" who would gather periodically to theorize/strategize about how to rebuild a progressive movement in our metropolitan area that could challenge for power."

Tarzynski listed himself, Harold Meyerson, Karen Bass, Sylvia Castillo, Gary Phillips, Joe Hicks, Richard Rothstein, Steve Cancian, Larry Frank, Torie Osborn, Rudy Acuna, Aris Anagnos, Abby Arnold, Carl Boggs, Blase Bonpane, Rick Brown, Stanley Sheinbaum, Alice Callahan, Jim Conn, Peter Dreier, Maria Elena Durazo, Miguel Contreras, Mike Davis, Bill Gallegos, Bob Gottlieb, Kent Wong, Russell Jacoby, Bong Hwan Kim, Paula Litt (and Barry Litt, with a question mark), Peter Olney, Derek Shearer, Clancy Sigal and Anthony Thigpenn.

Included in a suggested elected officials sub-group were Mark Ridley-Thomas, Gloria Romero, Jackie Goldberg, Gil Cedillo, Tom Hayden, Antonio Villaraigosa, Paul Rosenstein and Congressmen Xavier Becerra, Henry Waxman and Maxine Waters.

Tarzynski went on to write "I think we should limit the group to 25 max, otherwise group dynamics begins to break down....As i said, I would like this to take place in a nice place with good food and drink...it should properly be an all day event."

DSA Los Angeles event

Democratic Socialists of America kicked off events at the Democratic National Convention by organizing a major panel on the 2000 presidential and congressional elections. National Director Horace Small played host to DSA leaders Harold Meyerson, of LA Weekly, who was doing double duty putting out a daily for conventioneers, Barbara Ehrenreich, who has been stumping for Ralph Nader, Cornel West, who was a co-chair of the Bill Bradley primary campaign, and DSA youth organizer Daraka Larimore-Hall–.

They were joined by panelists Maria Elena Durazo, president of H.E.R.E in LA, John Nichols of the Madison daily Capitol Times, Antonio Villa, Speaker Emeritus of California’s Assembly, and William Monroe Campbell, of Ministers Against Global Injustice.

Lynn Shaw longtime DSA member and vice-chair of the LA County Democrats, chaired the event. — The event, at the University of Southern Calfornia, resulted in a revitalized Los Angeles local. USC professor Bettine Berge, professor of East Asian Studies, was instrumental in getting us the fine auditorium. Lynn Chancer and Frank Llewellyn were also key to making the event a success. [7]

Labor backing

In 2001 Los Angeles organized labor was so enamored with Villaraigosa, they backed him over an incumbent pro-labor Democrat.

According to Los Angeles labor academic Ruth Milkman[8];

Obviously, the Central Labor Council backing Antonio Villaragoisa for mayor (in May 2001) was a big gamble, given that labor was somewhat divided and that Hahn was also a pro-labor Democrat. But even though Villaragoisa lost the run-off (garnering 47 per cent to Hahn’s 53 per cent), his first place primary win was a sign of the coming of age of the labor-Latino alliance.
The incredible mobilization in the Villaragoisa campaign reached into every community. Obviously there were splits within the labor movement, with the building trades and some public sector unions going with Hahn. And given Hahn’s father’s civil rights record and decades-long representation of South-Central in county government, Hahn got strong support from African-Americans. But, on balance, not only did a pro-labor Democrat win over another even more pro-labor, left Democrat, but labor once again demonstrated its capacity to register immigrant voters and mobilize its base.

Powerful endorsements

In 2001, Senator Barbara Boxer, Governor Gray Davis, and retiring mayor Richard Riordan all endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa's bid for the Los Angeles mayoralty.[9]

Council seat

Former Speaker of the State Assembly Antonio Villaraigosa made history on March 4 2003, when he won an East Los Angeles seat in the 14th council district of the nation’s second largest city.

Villaraigosa, a former organizer for the United Teachers of Los Angeles, ascended with 56 percent of the vote, taking the seat away from Councilman Nick Pacheco, and, for the first time in the city’s history, defeating an incumbent councilman in a primary election.

The election win was a critical comeback for Villaraigosa who had lost a bitter race for mayor of Los Angeles in 2001 to James Hahn.

“We are going to organize families and work together to elevate the quality of life of this district,” said an emotional Antonio Villaraigosa to hundreds of labor union and community supporters who filled the Plaza del Sol hall in Boyle Heights, a working class, Mexican American and immigrant community. “This victory clearly says that we will not be forgotten. We are human beings and we deserve respect,” he continued as volunteers cheered, cried, and chanted, “Si se puede!”

“This is just the beginning,” said the jubilant Miguel Contreras, executive secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, who chaired the election night celebration.

Wayne Johnson, president of the California Federation of Teachers, hailed Villaraigosa for his role in helping to win the most important teachers’ strike in the history of Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa put together a "progressive coalition to win this race", undaunted by personal attacks from the Pacheco camp. “Even though they’re going to attack me for it, I’m still opposing the death penalty, still opposing three strikes, and still opposing those who want to declare war on our youth,” Villaraigosa said during the campaign.[10]

"Liberal" support

According to Harold Meyerson of LA Weekly, it was "L.A.’s liberal operatives who helped put Villaraigosa over the top". His field campaign was captained by Anthony Thigpenn, one of a "cadre of progressive younger African-Americans who are transforming the politics of South-Central". And Villaraigosa’s victory is the crowning achievement in the career of Parke Skelton, possibly the most principled political consultant in the business, who has steered to elected office virtually every liberal pol in greater L.A. — among them, Hilda Solis, Eric Garcetti, Jackie Goldberg, Sheila Kuehl, Karen Bass and Martin Ludlow.

Having won the city district by district, on Tuesday Parke won it across the board. But the victory is fundamentally Villaraigosa’s, and he won it in two stages. The first stage was his campaign of 2001, which set liberal L.A. ablaze with excitement and probably pulled down as many votes as such a liberal campaign could conceivably amass: 46 percent. The second stage, his campaign this year, was deliberately duller, devoted largely to reassuring older African-Americans and San Fernando Valley centrists that he wasn’t such a dangerous character after all. [11]

"Grassroots" support

Leading Los Angeles DSA leader Peter Dreier wrote in DSA's Democratic Left, Winter 2006[12]on the "progressive" networks around Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Hilda Solis;

Antonio Villaraigosa....He was a union organizer. He was the head of the ACLU. He came out the barrio and grew up very poor. His father was an alcoholic, beat his mother—he overcame incredible obstacles. He dropped out of high school, and went back and then graduated from UCLA. He worked his way up through the labor movement and then was elected to the state legislature, becoming Speaker of the Assembly.
When he was term-limited out of the legislature he ran for the LA City Council and was elected. When he ran for Mayor the first time in 2001 he lost, but he ran again and won in 2005. Now we have a progressive mayor, thanks in large part to this impressive network of grassroots organizations, labor unions and community and environmental organizations. Many of them have lifted up some of their leaders into positions of electoral power. It’s a network of activists that work closely with elected officials, like Congresswoman Hilda Solis, and it’s just remarkable what L.A. has become.

Latino Congreso 2007

Some 2,000 Latino leaders and activists from throughout the United States met in Los Angeles, at the Latino Congreso 2007, Oct. 5-9 to map an action plan and social justice program for the 2008 elections. Their goal was to bring out 10 million Latino voters who can play a decisive role in the presidential and congressional elections.

Helping prepare positions on the Iraq war were Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who chaired the congressional Out of Iraq Caucus, former California state Sen. Tom Hayden, United for Peace and Justice organizer, and Communist Party USA leader, Judith LeBlanc, and Lydia Lopez of the Communist Party front Latinos for Peace.

“America: not another nickel, not another dime, not another soldier, not this time,” Waters declared to a standing ovation. She drew another ovation when she called for African American and Latino unity.

The Congreso unanimously called for complete withdrawal from Iraq starting immediately, no invasion of Iran, and support for Oct. 27 regional demonstrations against the war and Iraq Moratorium activities the third Friday of each month.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Latinos should take a leading role to end the war, as “we are 14 percent of the population with 20 percent of the casualties.”

“It is time to bring the troops home,” he said.

Villaraigosa also called for a broad coalition to win just immigration reform, saying, “No group can do it alone,” and a national campaign to combat poverty.[13]

Endorsed Cindy Chavez

Cindy Chavez, a former South Bay Labor Council staff director, and 1999 Communist Party USA honoree, was elected to the San Jose City Council in 1998 and in 2006, served as vice mayor. Besides the Labor Council and many labor, community, environmental and political organizations, she was endorsed by U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; several former San Jose mayors; and seven current city councilmembers.

Though she was backed by labor and opposed by the Chamber of Commerce, Chavez emphasized bringing all segments of the community together to solve problems. As an example, she cited her leadership role on the council for the Children’s Health Initiative, which brings together public and private funding to provide health coverage to most uninsured children in Santa Clara County.[14]

Support for Cesar Chavez campaign

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at '08 Cesar Chavez Walk

Antonio Villaraigosa marched with Cesar Chavez as a teenager and also worked for Chavez's friend and colleague, leading Southern California Communist Party USA member Bert Corona.

In 2009 he supported an endorsed the Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday organization run by Evelina Alarcon, a leading member of the Communist Party USA, the sister of his friend Richard Alarcon.[15]

Institute for Americas Future

As of March 2009, Antonio Villaraigosa was serving on the board of Institute for Americas Future.[citation needed]

Wellstone Action

In 2009 Antonio Villaraigosa was listed as a member of the Advisory Board of Wellstone Action, a Minnesota based organization based on the political legacy of that state’s late ‘progressive” Senator Paul Wellstone.[16]

"Wellstone Action and Wellstone Action Fund combine to form a national center for training and leadership development for the progressive movement. Founded in January 2003, Wellstone Action's mission is to honor the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work through training, educating, mobilizing and organizing a vast network of progressive individuals and organizations."[17]

Obama Transition Economic Advisory Board

Barack Obama and Antonio Villaraigosa

Shortly after winning the November 2008 election President-Elect Barack Obama appointed Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to his Transition Economic Advisory Board.

Formerly Hillary Clinton's campaign co-chair, the appointment of Villaraigosa was seen as a unifying move, a nod to Clinton Democrats, to Latino voters and to Los Angeles, California and the West Coast.

Liberty Hill Foundation

As at 2009, Antonio Villaraigosa was a member of the Advisory Board of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles based organization seeking to advance movements for social change through a combination of grants, leadership training and alliance-building.[18]

Budget cuts protest

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was among the scheduled speakers at a downtown rally march 23, 2011, to protest proposed federal budget cuts, which organizers claim would hurt the city and county governments and attempts by small businesses to avoid layoffs.

Reps. Maxine Waters, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Karen Bass, Laura Richardson and Judy Chu, Councilman Richard Alarcon, actors Tim Robbins and James Cromwell and actress Mimi Kennedy were among the other scheduled speakers for the rally at the Edward Roybal Federal Building, set to begin at 2:30 p.m.[19]

Endorsing Torie Osborn

In 2011, former New American Movement member Torie Osborn, was a candidate for California's new vacant 50th Assembly District.[20]

Endorsements included;

UFW 50th Anniversary convention

The United Farm Workers' 50th Anniversary convention was held Saturday, May 19,2012. Rabobank Convention Center. Keene, California.

• A three-hour program (1-4 p.m.) honoring the UFW pioneers, with special segments on the 1962 founding convention, 1965-1970 grape strikers and boycotters, 1966 peregrinos who marched from Delano to Sacramento, the Filipino American grape strikers and the farm worker ministry. Among the speakers were Dolores Huerta, Chris Hartmire and Luis Valdez, whose Teatro Campesino performed old union songs and actos throughout the program.

• Other speakers included California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton and Maria Elena Durazo, former farm worker and head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Sunday, May 20, Rabobank Convention Center. Keene, California

• Mass at 7:45 a.m. with Bishop Richard Garcia from the Monterey Diocese presiding, honoring the rive UFW martyrs.

• Among the speakers were U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, United Auto Workers President Bob King, Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.[22]

DNC chair

In September 2009, Antonio Villaraigosa, was chairman of the Democratic National Convention.

Obama for America, National Co-Chair

February 22, 2012, Obama for America, announced the selection of the campaign’s National Co-Chairs, a diverse group of leaders from around the country committed to re-electing President Obama. The co-chairs will serve as ambassadors for the President, advise the campaign on key issues, and help engage and mobilize voters in all 50 states.

Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, was on the list.[23]

Fred Ross award campaign

In early 2013, mainly Democratic Socialists of America aligned activists, together with many elected officials across the United States came together to urge President Barack Obama to award posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the legendary organizer, Fred Ross, Sr.. The Saul Alinsky trained radical was the first to organize people through house meetings, a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and DSAer Dolores Huerta, and a pioneer in Latino voter outreach since 1949 when he helped elect Communist Party USA affiliate Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’s first Latino council member, "Ross’ influence on social change movements remains strong two decades after his death in 1992".

Endorsers of the proposal included Antonio Villaraigosa.[24]

References

  1. CALIFORNIA AND THE AMERICAN DREAM mvie webpage
  2. New Yorker profile May 21, 2007
  3. New Yorker profile May 21, 2007
  4. LA Weekly, Crunch Time The race to succeed Richard Riordan — and to reshape Los Angeles — comes down to the wire Harold Meyerson published: March 29, 2001
  5. Union Card for Green Card: The Radical Vanguard in the Los Angeles Labor Movement, By Lloyd Billingsley.August, 2000
  6. Huffington Post, From Organizer To Elected Official, Peter Dreier, September 8, 2008
  7. Democratic Left, Fall 2000
  8. http://www.dsausa.org/dl/DLFall2001.pdf
  9. PWW May 19, 2001, page 2
  10. PW, Labor leader wins Los Angeles Council seat Evelina Alarcon, March 13 2003
  11. Weekly, New Mayor, New City, By Harold Meyerson Thursday, May 19 2005
  12. http://www.dsausa.org/dl/Winter_2006.pdf
  13. PW, Latino Congreso sets 2008 agenda, by: Rosalio Muñoz and Joelle Fishman, October 12 2007
  14. San Jose, Calif., mayoral race hangs in balance, by: Marilyn Bechtel October 27 2006
  15. http://www.cesarchavezholiday.org/index.html
  16. http://www.wellstone.org/about-us/board-directors
  17. http://www.wellstone.org/about-us/our-mission-goals
  18. Liberty Hill website: Advisory Board
  19. Our Weekly, Rally set to protest federal budget cuts in Downtown L.A., Mar 23 2011
  20. TO for State Senate official page, accessed October 8, 2012
  21. TO for State Senate official page, accessed October 8, 2012
  22. Talking Union, U.F.W. 50th. Anniversary Convention,Posted on May 2, 2012 by dcampbell1
  23. Judy Chu for Congress, February 22, 2012, OBAMA FOR AMERICA ANNOUNCES REP. JUDY CHU AS. NATIONAL CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR
  24. Momentum Builds for Honoring Legendary Organizer Fred Ross, by Randy Shaw, 2013-03-05
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