Hector Figueroa: A visionary leader


Hector Figueroa, the fiery president of the labor union 32BJ SEIU, was laid to rest Wednesday, but the work he did to fight for better standards for property service workers will always be remembered.

In 2012, the labor leader became president of the 163,000-member strong union, which has workers in New York, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland, according to 32BJ SEIU.

As president he fought for the rights of window cleaners, airport workers, superintendents, doormen, maintenance workers, cleaners, porters and security officers, while helping to establish a prevailing wage, protected workers during changes in contracts, shielded immigrants from being targeted by ICE and lead the Fight for $15, according to 32BJ SEIU.

“He did so much for so many,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “He touched every corner of this city. His impact was felt all over this nation. I offer my personal condolences but I also offer my condolences to 8.6 million New Yorkers because the city became a better place the moment Héctor became a leader here, the moment we felt his passion, his belief.”

In December 2018, the minimum wage was raised in New York City to $15.

“Hector Figueroa was a leader and a true champion of the rights of workers both in our city and our country. A lion of the labor movement, he was humble, yet unapologetic when it came to fairness, justice and dignity,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “His impact on generations of working families in Queens and around the nation is truly immeasurable. From the Fight for $15 movement to organizing airport workers in Queens in their push for fair wages, Hector always saw the bigger picture and he always delivered for our families, no matter the circumstance.”

Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), the chairman of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor extended his condolences to Figueroa’s family.

“Hector Figueroa was a dear friend and a pioneer whose legacy on matters of labor, social justice, and immigrants’ rights continues to elevate standards for working families and communities of color across the nation, as well as in his native Puerto Rico. I extend my condolences to his wife Deidre, children Eric and Elena, and 32BJ SEIU family,” said Miller.

One of his last major acts as union president was to fight to unionize the tech giant Amazon, according to Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows).

“He was not shortsighted,” said Weprin on the Amazon deal. “As a labor leader, he could see the benefits of having 25,000 well-paid employees. He was a visionary, and even though Amazon’s labor practices were probably not the best in the industry, he had a vision of organizing those 25,000 employees. He saw beyond the rhetoric.”

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) said he touched many lives directly and indirectly.

“From the highest levels of government to the custodians at JFK airport, Hector Figueroa was loved by all in New York and around the country. His legacy has been left in the capable hands of incoming President Kyle Bragg and we have full faith that he will continue the 32BJ tradition. ¡Si Se Puede!” said Hyndman.

To Bragg, the new union president of 32BJ, Figueroa was more than just a union leader.

“We learned that at his core, Hector was a family man,” Bragg said, “a loving father and caring husband who brought that love and care to our union because he knew that if we were going to build a union worth fighting for, it would have to be rooted in what makes life worth living: so we built a union centered around the idea that to succeed we would love and protect each other.”