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January 2014

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Juanita Luiz

International Representative Juanita Luiz, IBEW Political/Legislative Department, retired effective Dec. 1.

A native of San Diego, Sister Luiz was working for the Eastern Municipal Water District in Southern California when, in 1994, workers in an independent employees association at the utility approached the IBEW for representation.

"We organized under California's public agency laws that didn't compel workers to join a union," says Luiz, who was originally skeptical about organized labor but became an activist under the mentorship of then-Ninth District International Representative Art Jones, who died in 2011. "Art showed me the path."

After formation of Perris Local 1436, which represented up to 500 workers at the water district, Luiz served as recording secretary, vice president and — from 1998 to 2002 — business manager.

"Juanita is a very courageous and powerful woman, a successful leader who is determined to make a difference. I'm proud to be her friend and IBEW sister," says International Representative Kelly Foster, who worked with Luiz at the water district and followed her onto the Ninth District staff.

Under Luiz's leadership, union membership grew from 33 percent to 70 percent, which opened the door for a successful campaign and vote for agency shop status.

An elected board composed predominantly of real estate developers and wealthy farmers governed the water district in the politically conservative region.

Looking to increase its influence, Local 1436 supported a retired member waging a grassroots campaign for a board position. "We only had $500 to spend, but local union members knocked on doors for a month," says Luiz.

While the election was lost, the day after voting, board members who had previously refused to acknowledge the newly-formed union wanted to speak with Luiz. "It was my first foray into politics," says Luiz, who attended Grossmont College and Cuyamaca College. "I realized how hard you have to work to win and gain influence."

Appointed Ninth District International Representative in 2002, Luiz serviced government, railroad and manufacturing locals. In 2007, she was assigned to the Membership Development Department at the International Office before moving to the Political/Legislative Department as the grassroots coordinator.

"I have had the good fortune to be an International Representative in the IBEW and have had the privilege of working with leaders, co-workers and members who are dedicated to promoting the union movement and helping others to have a better life," says Luiz.

Expressing her gratitude for the opportunity to personally experience and participate in the U.S. political system, Luiz says, "The best part of the job was conducting training sessions where I met so many dedicated union members who were excited to make change, even in difficult places like the South."

Sister Luiz has relocated to Washington State, closer to her daughter's home in Portland, Ore. She hopes to find a home near the water, do some bicycling and kayaking and stay active in the Democratic Party and in Emerge America, an activist group that identifies and trains women to run for public office.

"I am really concerned about the decline of labor unions," says Luiz, who was active in the Coalition of Labor Union Women and the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus. IBEW members, she says, are fortunate to be in a union that remains strong. "But we still have to sustain the labor movement by reaching out and enlightening more people on how essential the union movement is to their livelihoods and to the well-being of our nation."

On behalf of the officers, staff and membership, we wish Sister Luiz a long, healthy and happy retirement.


Juanita Luiz