In Memoriam: Labor and Education Hero Mike Garcia

Mark Garcia

Photo courtesy of La Comadre

This week we honor the life of labor hero Mike Garcia. Not only was Garcia a powerful leader of labor movements in the west, but he also served on the Green Dot Public Schools Board of Directors from 2006 through 2010.

“During his years on the Green Dot Public Schools Board, Mike Garcia made it clear that he had only one interest in mind: the well-being of workers and their families in Los Angeles County,” said Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot Public Schools. “He served the community directly as President of SEIU Local 1877, helping secure better benefits and living wages, but he knew families wanted something else from his union -- they wanted their kids to have access to a quality education, so they could achieve a better life.”

Garcia started in the labor movement in 1980, organizing janitors in San Jose, San Diego, and Denver. Ten years later, he was elected President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877. In 2000, Garcia led an historic strike in Los Angeles, with workers at 500 work sites walking off the job for three weeks that restored power to janitors. Garcia was pivotal in the Janitors for Justice movement; they were later able to leverage the power gained in Los Angeles to win organizing rights for the janitors in Orange County.

In 2010, he organized a statewide union for property service workers, Service Employees International Union - United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW). As founding President of SEIU-USWW, he represented over 40,000 janitors, security officers, airport service workers, and other property service workers across California. He went beyond contractual disputes and saw the need to increase member's access to the education system in order to rise up and into prosperity.

Because of his leadership and commitment to education, he established the Building Skills Partnership, an education advocacy organization that provides members with the support and training needed to ensure their children graduate from Los Angeles schools.

Garcia is survived by his wife Gloria, daughters Suzanna and Estrella, and son Henry, as well as his grandchildren, and his brothers and sisters at SEIU-USWW and the Building Skills Partnership. His work and legacy will continue to inspire future generations of educational and social justice organizers.

"During his time at Green Dot, he never lost sight of that goal," said Petruzzi. "He worked to help families get their kids to and through college, creating opportunity to escape poverty and achieve the American dream.”

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