FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM JULY 25, 2019 • THE QUEENS COURIER 11
Figueroa memorial goes on as Rosedale man takes over his presidency
BY BILL PARRY
Union members, activists, friends and
family of Héctor Figueroa gathered on
July 24 at Riverside Church in Harlem
to celebrate his life and lasting impact on
labor, immigrant justice and social justice
movements in the United States.
Th e Jackson Heights resident, and president
of 32BJ SEIU, died suddenly of a heart
attack on July 11. He was 57 and is survived
by his wife Diedre, and his children
Eric and Elena.
Under the union’s constitution, Executive
Vice President Kyle Bragg automatically
assumed leadership of 32BJ as its new
president representing more than 175,000
property service workers including window
cleaners, airport workers, superintendents,
doormen, maintenance workers, cleaners,
porters and security offi cers in 11 states.
“We have lost a brother, a beautiful mind,
an irreplaceable union leader and a real
fi ghter for justice,” Bragg said. “Héctor
believed in 32BJ and planted many seeds
during his tenure that have now blossomed
into the powerful work that the union will
continue in his legacy. Today we mourn our
leader but we continue standing strong to
fi ght for our shared vision for a more just
Bragg, a member of 32BJ for more than
three decades who lives in Rosedale with
his wife and three children, added that
under Figueroa’s presidency, 32BJ grew
by more than 50,000 members and passed
dozens of local and state policies protecting
and lift ing working families into the
middle class up and down the East Coast
at a time when the labor movement across
the country has been in decline.
“It is impossible to overstate the loss of
Héctor to our SEIU family. Héctor has
made a lasting impact on the heart and
soul of our union, and he will be sorely
missed,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry
said. “Héctor’s leadership made it possible
for janitors, doormen and women, security
offi cers, airport workers and so many
other working people across the U.S. and
Puerto Rico to join together and lift up
their wages and improve their jobs.”
Th e union released a passage from a
posthumous op-ed Figueroa wrote for
Th e New York Times entitled, “Th e Labor
Movement Can Rise Again,” which captured
his personal and principled concern
for working people.
“It’s not too late to rebuild our movement,”
Figueroa wrote. “If labor wants to
have a real impact, our movement needs a
big and ambitious plan to organize it. It is
heartbreaking to witness our movement
risk near-irrelevance when workers are
ready to take action.”
In the aft ermath of his death, tributes
to Figueroa poured in from Democratic
Presidential candidates, Governor
Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and
dozens of local and state elected offi cials.
State Senator James Sanders, who represents
the communities that surround
JFK International Airport, might have
summed up Figueroa’s legacy best.
“Héctor Figueroa was the embodiment
of a compassionate leader. A true hero
and a champion for millions of Americans
in this great country,” Sanders Jr. said.
“He fought for fair pay, good benefi ts,
and safer working conditions for union
members; many of which were in my district.
What made Héctor special was his
willingness to work on issues outside his
union. Not only did he stand up for all of
his union brothers and sisters, he worked
tirelessly for the working class. Héctor
genuinely cared for all working people.”
At the request of his family and in lieu
of fl owers, all are encouraged to donate in
Figeuroa’s name to two causes he deeply
cared about, Th e Sunrise Movement,
a youth climate change organization, and
United We Dream, an immigration advocacy
Th e union says it will honor Figueroa by
carrying on his legacy.
Photo Courtesy of 32BJ
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