Laura Reyes is the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.6 million workers. She was elected at the union’s 40th International Convention in June 2012.
A native of San Diego, California, Reyes grew up in a union family, her father and great-grandfather were both advocates for workers’ rights. Reyes taught preschool and saw first-hand the challenges faced by many education workers. Her first child, Damian, was born prematurely and with severe Cerebral Palsy. The prognosis was that he would be unable to speak and confined to a wheelchair. Reyes gave up her job and became a home care provider to care for Damian full time. Today, Damian is a college student, majoring in biology.
In 2002, Reyes joined the United Domestic Workers (UDW) Homecare Providers Union/AFSCME Local 3930. Her leadership as a rank-and-file activist in the union led to her election as a delegate to the AFSCME convention for the first time in 2006. She became a member of the committee that modernized and wrote the present UDW constitution to make it more member-focused. Reyes worked as a union organizer helping fellow home care providers. She was elected UDW President in 2008, an AFSCME International Vice President in 2009.
As president of UDW, she led the largest AFSCME affiliate in California. Reyes led organizing drives that grew the union from 20,000 to approximately 62,000 home care providers. She also led the effort to restore fiscal health within the union. She held house meetings where members discussed the very serious issues affecting clients and providers in California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. Through legislative and political action efforts, she held off cuts to the IHSS program. And as a bilingual activist, Reyes helped non-English speaking workers navigate the often complicated bureaucracy.
Reyes serves as a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which guides the daily work of the labor federation. She is a member of the Executive Council’s Immigration Committee, which is taking a leading role in the debate over immigration reform. She also serves on the AFL-CIO committees on Women Workers, Civil and Human Rights, Older and Retired Workers, and Union Repositioning. She is a member of the Board of Emerge America, a unique program designed to identify, train and encourage women to run for office. Reyes is also a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).
Reyes is actively engaged in developing the AFSCME Women’s Leadership Academy to increase the number of women in all levels of the union’s leadership. She coordinates the efforts of AFSCME’s Next Wave initiative to encourage and develop the next generation of union leadership. She also leads the union’s efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Reyes is the single mother of three children, Damian, Christian and Diana Ruth.