“Irreplaceable” union leader Héctor Figueroa dies

Political heavyweights and local leaders across the country have lamented over the weekend the passing of Héctor Figueroa, the president of 32BJ SEIU, of Jackson Heights.

The local labor leader became president of the union, which represents over 163,000 property workers in New York, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland in 2012, according to 32BJ SEIU.

As president for window cleaners, airport workers, superintendents, doormen, maintenance workers, cleaners, porters and security officers throughout the metro New York and other sections of the east coast he fought to raise the minimum wage, helped to establish a prevailing wage, worked to increase minimum hours, protected workers during change in contracts, shielded immigrants from being targeted by ICE and lead the Fight for $15, according to 32BJ SEIU.

“I’m heartbroken to hear of the passing of Héctor Figueroa. Héctor was a stalwart champion in the fight to ensure every worker receives the respect and dignity they’ve earned. My thoughts are with his family and his loved ones,” said presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden on social media.

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) called Figueroa “irreplaceable.”

“Hector reinvigorated the labor movement in NYC and brought a better quality of life to the countless men and women who trusted him with their livelihood. Rest in peace in my friend,” said Hyndman.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Ridgewood) found his passing “heartbreaking.”

“He was an incredible advocate for the working people of New York City and his absence will be felt,” said Reynoso on Twitter. “My heart goes out to everyone @32BJSEIU and his family.”

Earlier this year, Figueroa, 57, gave an impassioned speech to union members of 32BJ SEIU about the power and importance of unions.

“Last year, out of this [Trump] administration $150 billion was given in tax breaks to big corporations. We took, as a government, $150 billion that could have funded our schools, that could of funded our children, that could have helped our veterans that are coming from war so that they could have a decent life after serving our country, that could have helped workers get the enforcement of labor laws in every workplace so that they would not be getting a bad deal and not being paid the right of money,” said Figueroa.

“What is at stake for us as a union is not just to build 32BJ, it is not just to build powerful working people, it is to save our country, it is to make right by all people, it is to save the future, my children, your children, and our grandchildren deserve better,” added the union president. “We have the ability, we have the will to take to the streets, to bring our members to register to vote, to organize, march and take back this country so the forces of evil don’t destroy what our forefathers did and we can see that the dream of America is real, palpable, and that the people can see hope again and that they are not torn apart by hate.”

More from Around New York