Secretary-treasurer, UFCW International
Esther López is secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International. She began with the UFCW in November 2006 when she was hired as director of the Civil Rights and Community Action Department. In that role, she has helped put the UFCW on the front lines of the most crucial civil rights battles of our time — fighting back against voter suppression, working to end exploitation of refugees from countries like Burma, Sudan and Somalia, creating more opportunities for women and expanding LGBT equality. López is best known for her leadership on comprehensive immigration reform, recognizing the issue as central to civil, human and labor rights. After President Obama announced relief from deportation for the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, López launched a program to ensure eligible UFCW members were first in line to apply. Prior to that, she spearheaded the Union Citizenship Action Program, also known as UCAN, to help UFCW members become naturalized and get on the path to citizenship. López was the lead staff person on the UFCW Commission on ICE Enforcement that highlighted civil rights abuses in the 2006 Swift raids.
López has also helped lead the transformation of the UFCW into a more diverse union. As part of this effort, she developed and administered two diversity surveys that asked important questions about how to make the UFCW leadership more reflective of its membership. Since López took the helm of the Civil Rights and Community Action Department, more women and minorities have been hired and promoted into positions of power. She also oversaw the launch of the UFCW’s first-ever LGBT constituency group — OUTreach. Prior to her career at the UFCW, López played an active role in improving labor conditions within the state of Illinois, serving as deputy chief of staff for labor, as well as in the governor’s cabinet as director of the Illinois Department of Labor. López currently serves on the national boards of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Jobs With Justice, Center for Community Change, National Consumers League and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.