What is the UCLA Labor Archives

In 2016, former Local 11 and LAANE organizer Vivian Rothstein, with the assistance of Local 11 staff member Danielle Wilson, and labor historian, Toby Higbie of UCLA, began to document the history of UNITE HERE Local 11 for the UCLA Labor Archives. 

Their collaboration resulted in the Oral History Project which documents the transformation of the internal union culture of Local 11 and the experiences and perspectives of union activists as they fought for respect and justice.

This project is supported by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor & Employment (IRLE), the James Lawson Labor Center, the UCLA Department of History, and the UCLA Library Department of Special Collections.


UNITE HERE Local 11, which currently represents over 32,000 hospitality workers in southern California and Arizona, has a long history in Los Angeles. In XXX, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 11 brought together previously separate locals for waiters, waitresses, bartenders, cooks, and other hotel workers. At the time the union’s leadership was mostly non-Spanish speaking.

In the 1980s, the Spanish-speaking membership of Local 11 fought for fuller participation in their union against a largely Anglo leadership. Their efforts culminated in the election of Maria Elena Durazo as president of Local 11. Durazo began reorienting the local towards greater membership participation and a more assertive stance with employers.

Since then, Local 11 has merged with locals in Orange County, Santa Monica, and Arizona to create a fighting union. Local 11 is now led by three Co-Presidents; Ada Briceño, Susan Minato, And Kurt Petersen.

Performance Based Oral History Interviews

Here are two videos that are dramatizations of interviews based on 28 oral histories of Local 11 leaders recorded between 2016 and 2017. In 2018 they were turned into two plays which then were turned into these two videos.

“Change is What We Do24 minute video performance based on oral history interviews

Organizing is the only way to make change in the workplace, the community and in the political environment. But what exactly is organizing? Six diverse leaders of UNITE HERE Local 11, explore what holds people back from organizing, what skills organizers need to help others step up as leaders, and the role of personal stories in building trust and courage amongst those organizing for change. Featuring the words of Karl Lechow, Maria Elena Durazo, Susan Minato, Donald Wilson, Martin Lopez and Marta Santamaria.

“Changing Lives; Changing L.A” – a 27 minute video performance based on oral history interviews

Four members of UNITE HERE Local 11 share their stories of work, family, and the struggle for a better life in Los Angeles. Emma Worthington, Regla Soto, Soledad Garcia, and Ignacio Ruiz tell us in their own words how they became leaders in their union, changing their own lives while they helped transform Los Angeles. Portrayed by professional actors, their individual stories are woven together into the story of one powerful community.

Oral History Interviews

There are 28 oral histories interviews available in video and transcript, of organizers and members of UNITE HERE Local 11 in Los Angeles from the 1980s-2016.  The interviews cover their immigration experience, finding work in the hotel and restaurant industry, conditions on the job, learning to overcome fear and lead others, organizing for better wages and working conditions, and the satisfaction of winning union representation and living wages, among other topics.  Available at:  https://calisphere.org/collections/27116/?q=&facet_decade=2000s

Videos and News Coverage of Los Angeles Organizing Campaigns

Videos and News Coverage of Los Angeles Organizing Campaigns of the hospitality workers in UNITE HERE Local 11, Justice for Janitors and other important organizing campaigns in Los Angeles featuring, among others, Miguel Contreras, Maria Elena Durazo, Rev. James Lawson and Cesar Chavez. Campaigns include the L.A., Santa Monica and Century Blvd. Living Wage Campaigns, the Justice for Janitors Union drive, union contract campaigns for USC food service workers and city-wide hotel labor contracts, and many others.  Available at:  https://vimeo.com/memoryworkLA

Documents, Leaflets, Photographs, Banners and Press Coverage of UNITE-HERE Local 11, 1980s-2016.

UNITE-HERE Local 11 traces its origins to the Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International union founded in 1891 and has been active in Southern California since the 1930s. Local 11 partnered with other labor and community organizations to play a key role in reviving the Los Angeles labor movement during the 1990s and 2000s  Files can be located using this Document Finding Aid: https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8nz8f2c/ and accessed through the UCLA Research Library.

Watch Party Toolkit

We hope you will have a “watch party” with members of your organization!. This guide will give you everything you need to host a screening of one of the oral history dramatizations found in the UCLA UniteHere Local 11 Archive. These materials are for noncommercial use only. 

Our goal with this toolkit is to inspire and foster new organizing campaigns, whether they be union or another type of movement. The basic tenets of organizing will hold true.

Get The Toolkit