Roxana Tynan

LAANE Executive Director

Twenty-two years ago, I arrived at LAANE by way of an idea. I had been serving as economic development deputy to Councilmember Jackie Goldberg, and our idea was this: if big developers can reap big benefits from city government to build their projects, then the communities our elected leaders represent should get some benefits in return. Simple, right?

We began piloting what we would go on to call Community Benefits Agreements on big developments like Hollywood and Highland and the Staples Center, leveraging the City’s power to require project labor agreements with targeted local hire for the permanent jobs those developments would create.  It worked: high-road union jobs at onsite hotels and retail establishments went to neighborhood workers. Over 60% of the initial hires for the hotel at Hollywood and Highland came from the 90028 zip code alone. 

Through the process of developing, then enforcing these agreements, I came to work closely with LAANE and Madeline Janis. I had already partnered with them before to help enforce the 1997 Los Angeles Living Wage, another very good idea. Once Councilmember Goldberg termed out, Madeline invited me to join LAANE and continue our work together. We secured a CBA with NOHO Commons, and when LAX expanded, we secured benefits for the surrounding neighborhoods. These victories were edifying, and they were helping us to connect and build strong coalitions with other community groups that still sustain us to this day. But increasingly we would put in the work to make site-specific low-road jobs into high-road jobs for local community members, only to see the development project fall apart before ever breaking ground. It felt like we were playing Good Jobs Whack-a-Mole. We needed to think bigger, and we needed to think industrywide.

So we did. We partnered with UFCW 770 to pass an industry-wide grocery worker retention ordinance. We partnered with the Teamsters to change the port trucking industry from a diesel polluting hellscape of worker misclassification and stolen wages, and along the way environmental advocates and labor advocates formed crucial partnerships and went to bat for each other. When port trucking companies appealed the Clean and Safe Ports Policy all the way to the Supreme Court, it was the National Resource Defense Council’s lawyers that led the arguments for worker protections. 

With each campaign, and with each win, we were also convincing local governing bodies, like the Port Authority and LA Metro, that they not only had the power, but also the responsibility to demand better conditions for the workers they contracted and the jobs they created.  Our coalition’s Construction Careers campaign with LA Metro, led by the LA/OC Building Trades and the LA Federation of Labor, is a prime example of what is possible: it created 57,000 good jobs for disadvantaged workers, generated $129 million in economic benefits, and linked construction projects to good jobs for underserved communities all over Los Angeles.

LAANE has always been a home for ideas. As we learned earlier in this series from two of its co-founders, Senator Maria Elena Durazo and former LAANE executive director Madeline Janis, LAANE’s very inception was an experiment. But LAANE also has been a home for people and for developing relationships, some likely and some very unlikely. We continue to look for the intersecting goals that all people share –  clean air, good jobs, good schools – and to break down the false divisions that get in the way of achieving those goals, divisions often fomented by corporate interests that want us to think that workers and communities are two separate groups. Breaking down divisions means more direct organizing – a lot more.  

It also means recognizing and treating our broader progressive movement as an ecosystem, and caring for its sustainability. In addition to unions and local organizations, we’re proud to work alongside groups such as California Calls to shift power statewide. We’re also proud of our work to develop leadership, both within LAANE and with workers demanding a voice on the job. 

What the other side has is money. What we have is people. Money can work faster, sure, but it’s transient. When we organize, when we build leadership generation after generation, what we do lasts. We’ve come such a long way together, and after 30 years, it’s important to remember, reflect, and ready ourselves for the years to come.