Profiles in History: Linda Chavez-Thompson

Linda Chavez-Thompson is the second profile I’m posting (admittedly belatedly) for Women’s History Month this year.  She’s a second-generation Mexican American who has served as a significant union leader and political activist.  She was the first person of color, and the first woman, to be elected Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, a position she held for over a decade.

Linda Chavez-Thompson was born in Texas and began her union organizing career doing local work there.  She moved on to work with, and then become a local executive, in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in San Antonio.  She was subsequently elected to the San Antonio Central Labor Council and the Texas AFL-CIO.  She became Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO in 1995, holding the post until 2007.   In 2001, she was elected president of ORIT, the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers, which is the Western Hemispheric arm of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.  In addition to her labor organizing career, Chavez-Thompson has been a lifelong Democrat.  She was a delegate to multiple presidential nominating conventions and was nominated for Lieutenant Governor of Texas.  She also served as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee for several terms.

I know this seems like a short profile, but don’t be fooled: Chavez-Thomspon was a significant Latina in American history.  There have been any number of Latinas who have made significant political contributions-~-and I may actually get more of them posted later this month-~-but the reality is that a lot of politics happen outside of the courts or elected office.  Unions have played a significant role in advocating for workers’ rights, and many of the advances unions have made have helped to make workplaces more amenable to women who seek employment.  On top of that, Chavez-Thompson’s success in the AFL-CIO could be seen as having paved the way for future potential Latino/a leadership within the organization, which is also significant for advancing the rights of people of color.

If her profile interested you, take a moment to look up Dolores Huerta, who worked as a labor organizer focusing on the plight of farm workers.  She founded the National Farmworkers Association and has won several awards for her advocacy of immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, and women’s rights.

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~ by Randi Saunders on March 19, 2014.

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