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WSLC proudly supports LELO, its leaders’ extraordinary change

LELO celebrates 50th anniversary by honoring past leaders, launching new ones



SEATTLE (June 7, 2023) — Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing (LELO), an organization dedicated to empowering low-income workers of color, recent immigrants and women workers, just celebrated its 50th anniversary at a June 3 event at the Jerry Brockey Center at South Seattle College. With the theme of “Ordinary Workers Creating Extraordinary Change,” this annual celebration is held in honor of Silme Domingo, Gene Viernes and Milton Jefferson: LELO’s co-founders who dedicated their lives to improving their communities and improving conditions for all working people throughout the world.

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (WSLC) was pleased to join multiple WSLC-affiliated unions, community allies and leaders from across the state in sponsoring the livestreamed event, which can be watched at LELO’s Facebook page. It is by supporting organizations like this, which share the WSLC’s goals of lifting up workers and raising living standards, that the council builds community solidarity inside and outside the labor movement. That is particularly important for the WSLC in advancing its Race & Labor work.

Labor union leaders and activists were well-represented at LELO’s 50th anniversary event.

LELO was formed in 1973 by three worker organizations, the United Construction Workers Association (UCWA), Alaska Cannery Workers Association (ACWA) and the United Farm Workers (UFW) who sought to use the 1960s civil rights laws and spirit of activism to fight for workers’ rights in the fields, canneries, unions and construction sites.

“We all continued to build on the philosophy that organizing and lawyering should be symbiotic, and that working with the goals of organizing workers into improving employment opportunities should be our North Star, said Michael Fox, LELO’s first lawyer who together with LELO co-founder Tyree Scott developed the concept for LELO.

As a result of the African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Alaskans, Pacific Islanders, and women in LELO’s three founding organizations, the concept of “No Separate Peace” was coined as a guiding principle of LELO’s work, and it has become its legacy. The organization has always believed that the destinies of people of color, against discrimination and unfairness in the workplace and fight for economic, gender and racial justice with a common analysis about how the “system” works and what and who they were fighting against.

LELO’s 50th anniversary celebration featured social time and a delicious dinner buffet prepared by Brockey Center staff (culinary students). It opened with a cultural performance by Adefua African Music and I had the honor of delivering a land and labor blessing.

MCs Cindy Domingo, Chair LELO Board of Directors, and LELO staffer Erika Olmos kept the evening lively and inspiring with a combination of local history, tributes to LELO’s founders and highlights of the staff and board’s present-day work in the community. Projects such as the Tyree Scott International Worker to Worker Project, Food Equity Program and the Blue Corn Cooperative, Relicensing Program and Radio are still going strong.Visit LELO’s website for more information about these great programs.

After a cultural performance by Tae Phoenix and Mike Withey, the 2023 Frederick Simmons Scholarship Awards were presented by Sean Bagsby, Business Manager of IBEW Local 46 and WSLC Vice President, and Quincy Hernandez, IBEW Local 46 member and 2022 Scholarship Awardee. The 2023 scholarship awards went to Mile Ponce, Marquis Holmes, Shaun Fort and Zein Ali for Pre-apprentices and Apprentices in the electrical trades (pictured above).

A special tribute to longtime LELO board member and social justice activist Garry Owens (1944-2022) was delivered by LELO Executive Director Ricardo Ortega. Learn more about Owens’ life and legacy in this Seattle Times obituary by Naomi Ishisaka.

The evening closed with two awards and a musical performance by Talison Crosby, UNITE HERE Local 8.

The 2023 John Caughlan Youth Award was given to Paul Ryan Villanueva, UW Masters student and APALA Seattle Chapter Fellow. It was presented by the Caughlan family and Mia-Elena McFarland, 2022 Caughlan Youth Awardee.

The 2023 Domingo, Viernes, Jefferson Award was presented to Carlos Lazo, founder of Puntes de Amor (Bridges of Love) for his work as a Cuban American leading the charge to transform US-Cuba policy.

LELO’s annual awards dinner and fundraiser is an important event that honors the legacy of great worker organizers of the past by inspiring and helping launch the great organizers of tomorrow. The WSLC is proud to support this organization and was honored to participate in its special 50th anniversary celebration. You can support LELO by getting involved and/or making a donation. Visit for more information.


Kasi Marita Perreira (Héen Shawat, Tlingit) is Director of Racial and Gender Justice for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.  WSLC Wednesdays is a weekly feature of The Stand where different departments of the WSLC describe their recent activities and the services they are providing to WSLC-affiliated unions.

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