Throughout National Hispanic Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO will be profiling labor leaders and activists to spotlight the diverse contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to our movement. Today’s profile features Henry L. “Hank” Lacayo.
A longtime staple of labor, political and academic circles in California, Henry L. “Hank” Lacayo was a force from his beginnings in the labor movement in the 1950s all the way up to his passing in 2017. He was born in Los Angeles in 1931 but moved to Mexico when he was young. He returned to California for high school. Upon graduating, he joined the Air Force. After his military service ended, Lacayo went to work at North American Aviation (later Rockwell International) in 1953. Within a few years, he not only became involved in UAW Local 887, he quickly rose to a full-time employee of the local and served as editor of its newspaper.
UAW President Walter P. Reuther encouraged Lacayo to continue his labor activism, and in 1962, he was elected president of Local 887, a position he held for 10 years. He represented more than 30,000 working people at Rockwell, both as union president and chief national negotiator for UAW-Rockwell contracts. His hard work led to an assistant director position for the UAW Western Region, covering nine states, along with serving as the region’s political director.
In 1974, he moved to Detroit to work at UAW’s national headquarters. He served as an administrative assistant to three UAW presidents and was appointed national director of the political and legislative department and later national director of the public relations and publications departments. He retired from the UAW in 1986 but continued in public life.
He created H.L. & Associates, a consulting firm representing clients in labor and management, government, community relations, senior citizen advocacy and international affairs. He actively participated in the California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) institute that bears his name, the Henry L. “Hank” Lacayo Institute for Workforce & Community Studies. He also advised presidential administrations, from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. He devoted time to civic duties, including strengthening the Ventura County Community Foundation and establishing the Destino Hispanic Legacy Fund that provides scholarships and other funding to the Latino community. Lacayo received an honorary doctorate from CSUCI and was inducted into the Pacific Coast Business Times Hall of Fame in 2012.
This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on October 12, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.