Remembering One of Labor's Great Organizers - PBF Remembers Mike Garcia

Friday, March 31st, 2017

A champion for labor and social justice, it is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Mike Garcia. Mike, who was President of SEIU United Service Workers West and a good friend to the Peggy Browning Fund, passed away this week.

Mike received the Peggy Browning Award at our second Awards Reception in San Francisco in 2014, recognized for his work on behalf of workers and their families.  His dedication to his union and to organizing will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him.  We celebrate his life with an excerpt from an article on the City Watch website on March 30, 2017 written by David Huerta, President, SEIU USWW Local 1877.

“It is with a sad heart today and with Gloria's blessing that I have to deliver the tragic news of the passing of my mentor, my friend, my leader Mike Garcia. After a long fight with diabetes and kidney failure, Mike is finally at peace.

Mike, to the many he was able to touch through his leadership, was someone who could move mountains through his fight for working people. I will remember him for the lessons he taught me in humility and strength; the heart that it takes to lead and always the need to know what you don't know.

His love for our membership, his community and his family was a driving force in his ability to build one of the most powerful unions in labor. A union built from the blood sweat and tears of immigrant workers, Black workers and the working poor.

It was his sense of family, community and justice that gave him the clarity by which to lead. There were no gray areas in Mike's fight for justice. His mission was to fight for the least amongst us.  And it was that compassion for working people that made him the man he was.”

And from our 2014 San Francisco Awards Reception Program Book:

Mike Garcia was born in April of 1951 in East Los Angeles. His father was a union factory worker who moved his family to Pacoima when Mike was a kid. Working his way through college as a janitor, Mike learned of the tedium and exploitation associated with that industry.  It served as a key experience in his life, as was his relationship with Dr. Rudy Acuna of the Cal State Northridge Chicano Studies Department. Dr. Acuna was Mike’s mentor on the road to his life of action and service on behalf of working people in California.

In 1980, while continuing his education by earning a Master’s Degree in social work, Mike began to work for SEIU as an organizer at the old Local 77 in San Jose.  He also worked at the SEIU Local in San Diego in the early ‘80’s and later became president of SEIU Local 105 in Denver, Colorado.

Returning to California in 1990, Mike became president of a new SEIU Building Service Local – Local1877 – in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 1990 to 1996 he led successful janitorial organizing campaigns in the Silicon Valley against companies cleaning the giant headquarters campuses of Oracle, Apple, Hewlett-Packard and others. Local 1877 grew from under 4,000 members to over 7,000 members during this period.

In 1996, SEIU tapped Mike to help with the reorganization of the Janitors local in Southern California and spearhead the drive to create one single large local union for janitors across the state. That task was finally accomplished in 2002 when San Diego Local 2028 merged into Local 1877, creating a janitors union with 30,000 members. In 2010, Local 1877, SOULA (Security Officers United of Los Angeles), and SEIU Security Officers Local 24/7 in the Bay area voted to merge into a unified, statewide union for property services workers. The new organization was named SEIU United Service Workers West with a membership of close to 40,000. Mike was unanimously selected by the USWW provisional Executive Board to serve as the new organization’s first president.


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