New York's Elected Leaders Pay Tribute to 32BJ Union Chief Figueroa, Died Last Night

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Figueroa, center, shown with other 32BJ union officials, has died reportedly of a heart attack. Photo: Facebook  
 
New York's elected leaders paid tribute today to Héctor Figueroa the president of the union 32BJ SEIU who died last night, reportedly of a heart attack.
 
“It’s impossible to put into words what Héctor meant to the men and women of 32BJ SEIU, to working people and to the labor movement," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “He bound us all together. His was always the voice of empathy, of conviction, of principle. Héctor embodied that word solidarity. His love of 32BJ SEIU ran deep, but you’d be just as likely to see him on the picket line with fast food workers or taxi drivers as you would with the custodians, service workers and doormen he represented. He fought just as doggedly for relief for people in Puerto Rico as he did for fair contracts here in New York City. If you were fighting for human dignity, then Héctor fought for you. To Chirlane and me, he was family. To Deidre, Eric and Elena, we are so deeply sorry for your loss. We will always be here for you."
 
“Today, New York lost a giant. Héctor Figueroa was a true fighter and hero of the people, and I am profoundly saddened to learn of his passing," said Letitia James, New York State Attorney General. "He dedicated his entire life to empowering and uplifting everyday people -- a champion of racial, economic, and social justice for all. Beyond his work to move our state and our country forward, Héctor was a true friend to all who knew him. Deeply respected, kind, and compassionate, Héctor was a man of great integrity. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all of 32BJ. New York is a little darker today.”
 
U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) on learning of Figueroa's death said, “I was truly heartbroken to hear of Hector’s passing. Hector was a giant in the labor movement, a tireless voice for the people of Puerto Rico and a passionate advocate for working people everywhere. To me, he was a dear friend, an inspiration and a personified reminder of why we fight. I counted on Hector for wise advice and counsel from my earliest days in New York politics. It is difficult to overstate his contributions to making our city a better place and the work he did on behalf of the Puerto Rican community. Most recently, in the dark months following Maria, Hector was on the front lines of mobilizing support for the Island when it needed it most.  From immigrant rights to better wages to healthcare, on nearly every issue that matters for working families, Hector was always in the trenches helping move the needle toward justice."
 
New York Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams said:  "I was completely stunned and deeply saddened to learn of Héctor Figueroa's sudden passing. I offer my prayers for peace and comfort to his family, friends, and the people of 32BJ he fought for over decades.
 
"Héctor was an extraordinary leader, a dedicated champion of working people, and an exceptional man. His commitment to the well-being of New Yorkers, within 32BJ and beyond, was absolute, as was his compassion for the struggles many faced.
 
"Héctor was one of the most driven, effective, and influential labor leaders in our city, and perhaps in the country. In an era when union membership has been on the decline, he dramatically expanded the scope, size, and reach of 32BJ. In an era of attacks on organized labor on the federal level, he was a stalwart defender of unions and their membership here in New York City. In an era when people are overworked and undervalued, he was a tireless fighter for expansions of their rights and protections. 
 
"In government, it is essential that we have dedicated partners in our work on behalf of the constituents we serve. Héctor was a true partner. He was someone I could always call. A driving force in the Fight for Fifteen, an advocate and a champion for pay, protections, and safety across industries, Héctor was driven by his commitment to worker justice in the long tradition of labor securing and advancing basic rights throughout history. 
 
"New York City, all New Yorkers should mourn the loss of this leader, and I add my prayers and grief to theirs, with gratitude for all that he accomplished in his life. I know that many of us who partnered with and learned from him will continue to work to uphold and advance his legacy."
 
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York senate majority leader, said, “Hector Figueroa was a giant in New York State and served as a national leader for millions of Americans. As President of 32BJ SEIU, Hector was on the front lines in the fight for fair pay, good benefits, and safe working conditions for his union brothers and sisters and for all hardworking Americans. Hector also stood up for progressive values and used his position to advocate for immigrant rights, environmental protection, expanded voting rights, and racial, social and economic justice.Hector Figueroa was more than a political ally, he was a dear friend, and I am deeply saddened by his untimely passing. My thoughts are with his family, especially his wife Deidre and his children, Eric and Elena, and all those who loved Hector. I hope that his memory will be a blessing and inspiration for us all to continue his work building a better state and nation.”
 
Rosanna Rosado, the New York Secretary of State said, “I am devastated that my longtime friend and colleague Hector Figueroa has passed away. His presence in New York – and his sudden loss – cannot be understated. Labor rights were certainly in Hector’s blood, as his parents were active in workers’ rights in the 1970s in Puerto Rico. In 1982, Hector brought his talents to the U.S. and fought tirelessly to protect and expand organized labor. His service at 32BJ SEIU established the union as a powerhouse for workers of all stripes. Over the decades and for millions of New Yorkers, Hector became the face and voice of the labor movement. He was intrinsic to the state’s fight for fair pay for workers, including the fight for $15. To say he was a giant in the labor movement would be an understatement."
 

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