John Grant

Immediate Past President, UFCW 770 and Chair Emeritus, LAANE Board of Directors

Following the exuberance, successes, and rose-colored optimism of the ‘60’s and 70’s, there were few remainders of social justice present in the subsequent decades. Los Angeles’ history as an anti-union town draped its shadow over the progressive movement. Within the labor movement, those trade unionists who searched for a better way forward found themselves instead parched in a desert of business unionism. Victories for working families – victories which were significant and repeated – were limited to a few project labor agreements for the building trades.

Seemingly, we lacked not only the power, but the imagination, to do more.

{LAANE enters stage left}

As trade unionists, we understand that organization is key to change.  But Madeline Janis and Roxana Tynan had the vision to see that unions plowing the same, shrinking field, over and over again, did not, and could not, increase the strength of the Union, nor bring forward a more just Los Angeles.

They saw a broader field. And imagined a different way to cultivate justice.  They built an organization that analyzed, collaborated, and then constructed institutional frameworks, based on legislative initiatives, wherein workers received respect, dignity, a living wage and a facilitated democracy. 

The first landmark victory, the living wage, gave Los Angeles more than an economic boost for some workers with a city contract. LAANE enabled Unions, environmentalists, and workers of all stripes, to re-think what work is:

  • workers compensated at a fair rate, with the ability to receive health care (living wage);
  • predatory retail companies denied the ability to do business without being transparent about its socio-economic effects (big box ordinance);
  • where business are succeeded by similar business, succession is guaranteed for those workers who toil there (worker retention);
  • when, how and where are permitted to work (fair work week).

This imagination, discipline, and collaboration led to many LAANE successes. But, the heat generated by the LAANE initiatives –  meetings, rallies, discussions, lobbying, testimony, intellectual girding in the media –  did more than lead to the passage of so many measures within Los Angeles County.

That process led to a rise in temperature (ferment and activity) within the labor and social justice movement as well. This exothermic phenomena provided space for activists, intellectual kindling for sages, and a cauldron for brewing remedies for the social and economic illnesses plaguing Los Angeles. The dynamic generated by LAANE’s fresh and innovative approach to addressing “what is work?” and what must be done to ensure that those who perform it are treated with respect and dignity changed LA.