- Worked for the United Farm Workers from 1965-1978
- Became Internal Executive Vice President of the SEIU in 1996
Advocates pro-amnesty immigration reform
Served on Barack Obama’s National Latino Advisory Council
Became an Honorary Chairman of Democratic Socialists in 2004
Eliseo Medina was born in 1946. In 1965 he participated in the United Farm Workers’ grape strike in Delano, California. This first taste of union activism led him to work, under the tutelage of the Saul Alinsky-disciple Cesar Chavez and the longtime socialist/union leader Dolores Huerta, as a union organizer and political strategist with the United Farm Workers from 1965-78. Medina has been the International Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) since 1996.
In the February 9, 1971 edition
of the Communist
Party USA newspaper Daily World, CPUSA member Stephanie
Allan wrote about a pair of recent rallies (in Chicago and in White
Plains, New York) which had been held in support of the CPUSA
front called The Committee to Free Angela Davis (which was also known
by other, similar, names). While Eliseo
Medina was one of the speakers at the Chicago event, Al Sharpton was
a speaker at the New York rally.
Advocating amnesty for all illegal aliens who are currently living in the United States, Medina says it is vital “to get undocumented immigrants out of the underground economy, into the system and on an equal playing field with all workers.” In 2000, he was able to persuade the AFL-CIO to change its longstanding policy against illegal immigration; thereafter, the union advocated amnesty for millions of illegals. In 2005, Medina left the AFL-CIO union federation to join the new union coalition Change to Win, founded by Andrew Stern and chaired by Anna Burger.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Medina served on candidate Barack Obama’s National Latino Advisory Council. Another noteworthy member of this Council was Democratic U.S. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, whose proposed pro-amnesty bill Medina enthusiastically supported. After Obama's election victory in November 2008, Medina became an advisor to the new administration.
In April 2009, Medina testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, arguing to “allow millions of undocumented workers to come out of the shadows, relieving them of the fear of arrest and deportation and of leaving behind their families and dreams.”
Medina was also a key player in the emergence of a unified labor coalition for immigration reform. Change to Win (the SEUI’s union federation since 2005) and the AFL-CIO joined forces to support the Obama administration and to ensure that pro-amnesty immigration reform remained a top legislative priority.
On June 2, 2009, Medina addressed the America’s Future Now! conference hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future. Here, Medina revealed the real motivations for his union activism -- which had much more to do with politics than with human rights:
"[If] we reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters. [In the presidential election of 2008, Latinos and immigrants] voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got two out of every three voters that showed up. Can you imagine if we have, even the same ratio, two out of three? Can you imagine 8 million new voters who care about our issues and will be voting? We will be creating a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle."
Medina’s political advocacy is underscored by his longstanding relationship with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). In 2001, he told an audience of DSA members:
“[I]t was the DSA chapter that adopted me in Chicago, that got us food, found me a place to live. It was a DSA leader name of Carl Shier who took this scared kid and helped him not only to find a home but also to figure out how to stop the sale of grapes ... I want to thank you, 35 years later, for what you did for me and for what you did for farm workers, because, I think, thanks to that help, we were successful, and we did stop the sale of grapes, and we did build a farm workers union.”
Three years later, in 2004, Medina was honored by Chicago’s DSA chapter for his “vital role in [bringing about] the AFL-CIO’s reassessment of its immigration policy” -- a reference to the union's reversal of its longstanding opposition to illegal immigration. That same year, Medina became a DSA honorary chairman, a status he shared with the likes of Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Dolores Huerta, Frances Fox Piven, and Gloria Steinem.