In celebration of Labor Day I would like to introduce you to Linda Chavez-Thompson. Linda was executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2007.
Linda’s place of birth is unclear. Although she has been described by some sources as an “illegal immigrant”, other references contend that she was born in Lorenzo in Crosby County in West Texas and reared in Lubbock. Her father was a sharecropper, and she was one of seven children. At the age of 10, she took a job hoeing cotton in the fields in Lorenzo for the summer. It was a job she worked at for the next nine years. She also picked cotton for several years. She dropped out of high school at age 16 to help support her family, and married at the age of 20.
In 1967, Linda became a secretary on the staff of the Construction Laborer’s Local 1253 in Lubbock. When a tornado struck the Lubbock area that year, she volunteered to coordinate the Texas AFL-CIO’s relief efforts. She enjoyed the job so much, she became a staff organizer for the North Texas Laborers District Council. Her first organizing campaign was to help city workers in Lubbock form a union. They were successful.
Linda worked her way up the ladder of union leadership and eventually became the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. During her tenure as executive vice-president, Linda provided leadership in a number of areas. She spent most of 1996 on the road, acting as the public face of the AFL-CIO. She helped with the AFL-CIO’s electoral efforts in the 1996 federal elections, and helped with the federation’s 1996 push to increase the minimum wage (a program called “America Needs a Raise”).
Beginning in 1996, Chavez-Thompson headed up the AFL-CIO’s policy-making group on immigration reform. She was instrumental in the federation’s push for reform in 1996 and 1997, and helped forge a new majority on the AFL-CIO Executive Council which later adopted a radical change in the federation’s immigrant policy in 2000.
In 2003, President Sweeney appointed her to an AFL-CIO task force on organizing. She also was active in the AFL-CIO’s federal electoral efforts in 2004.
Linda Chavez-Thompson is an inspiration to women everywhere.