#MemberMonday– Joaquin Miramontes

Now in his golden years, Joaquin Miramontes is Chairman of the SEIU 721 Retirees Committee. Yet no matter what stage of life he is in, activism and education have always been part of the picture.

While growing up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Anti-War Movement and the Immigration Movement were big. He delved into both while studying at Roosevelt High School, UC Irvine and Cal State Long Beach – where he earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work that led him to the LA County Department of Children and Family Services.

“When I worked for LA County, I shifted my activism,” Miramontes explained. “We have a cause to fight for. SEIU has always been a broader union that works on society issues. So, I decided to throw my weight behind the union. I saw there was a need. I picked up the mantle. And I ran with it.”

Miramontes’ noticed his co-workers were, “turned off to politics. I saw our role in the union was to enlighten them, to get them to understand that we live in a world of limited resources, so we have to fight to get resources for us.”

Though he started as a Children’s Social Worker, he eventually was promoted to Supervising CSW. Naturally, he became a leader within Bargaining Unit 777.

It came with big responsibilities. Miramontes served on two different bargaining teams for two different contracts, also functioning as Strike Captain each time at his respective worksites – first at DCFS’ Belvedere Office in 2013 and then at the Lakewood Office in 2017.

“As far as being a Union Steward, I would emphasize to the workers why it was important to participate, how our MOU protected them,” he said. “It gave us certain abilities for kinds of relief – for CSWs, the number of caseloads they were allowed to carry and, for Supervisors, the amount of people they were supervising.”

All the while, Miramontes’ activism and education never stopped. He earned an AA in Labor Studies from LA Trade Tech. And while serving as Union Steward, he got SEIU 721 to participate for two consecutive years in the LA Harbor Labor Day Parade, also recruiting youth from Roosevelt, Garfield and Wilson High Schools to attend – which expanded the parade’s reach into the eastside of Los Angeles.

In his lifelong pursuit of social justice, Miramontes transferred his outside activism inwards towards union activism, understanding that worker justice is a continuum of social justice. And he’s still sticking with the union even after retiring in July of 2021 upon 32 years with LA County.

His new goal? To continue promoting unionism and to “roll the union on.”

“One of the things about becoming a retiree, we basically lose a lot of our connections,” he said. “Once that common denominator of work is broken, there is no more communication. You have to make an effort and after a while there’s not much to talk about. How many times can you go down Memory Lane? You want to continue to have a lot of purpose. If it’s not purpose that you need, it’s protection of your benefits that you need. Don’t get a letter from LACERA one day telling you that you’re going to have to pay for medical. See that coming – or try to stop it from coming. Just because you retired from your career, that does not mean you retire from your union. The union continues to be vital in your life – in terms of protection of your retiree benefits, a sense of community, continuing education via subject matter presenters and a sense of purpose. Retirees are vital to current employees due to the vast experience, wisdom and mentorship they can provide.”