Name: Sonia Ramirez
Hometown: Pacoima, California
Legislative Representative, Department of Government Affairs, AFL-CIO
Fellowship 1995-1996: Democratic National Committee – Office of Latino Outreach
1. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?
After completing the CHCI fellowship I joined the Clinton/ Gore campaign as a regional political organizer. This was a great experience that allowed me to test my skill in community organizing and fueled my passion for politics. I was also able to get back home to California after my year in DC and apply the lessons learned through the CHCI program.
After the campaign I realized that my work in DC was not done so I returned to Capitol Hill. After years of serving in both constituent services and legislative positions for members of Congress I found a job that allowed me to embrace my life passions – organizing, politics and the quest to move public policy that advances social and economic justice. I joined the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) as a legislative representative fighting for the rights of working families. The AFL-CIO is a federation of 53 national and international labor unions that represents over 10 million working women and men. The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families-to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation.
2. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?
The CHCI fellowship was a critical step in my life journey and I feel has strongly contributed to my personal success. CHCI gave me an opportunity to test my years of academic training in a professional setting and did so with the backdrop of Washington DC, the center of political and government affairs. But, perhaps most empowering is that it exposed me to Latino leaders taking charge and changing people’s lives – the most powerful and life altering thing you could show a young Latina that dreamed of making it big in politics and changing the world. CHCI gave me the tools and the strength to pursue my dreams – and I am still on that path.
3. How have you stayed engaged in community service?
I have continued my engagement in community service both in my official duties representing the AFL-CIO on a variety of informational and educational panels and national conferences and through the Federation’s political programs that have allowed me to work in communities across the country in support of candidates that stand up for working people. I have always believed in the power behind an organized and collective voice. Every electoral cycle the AFL-CIO engages in an extensive process of outreach, education and mobilization of our members in the political process. I find my participation in this process very empowering because it connects me directly to communities and members and hearing directly from them gives great value and insight to my legislative work.
4. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?
My advice to CHCI participants would be to dream big and recognize that you have a lifetime to accomplish it. I remember arriving at my first CHCI fellows meeting and being so anxious to get out there and realize all the hope that was being invested in us as “future leaders.” I was exhausted in a week, and then I realized I had time, the program was about starting on a path and understanding the skills needed to achieve greatness and then enjoying the journey.
5. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
Wherever I am in 5-10 years I will be continuing on my life journey, pursuing my big dream of empowering communities and pushing for social and economic justice. More specifically, when I joined the national staff of the AFL-CIO I did not simply take a job, rather I enlisted in a movement. So I am certain that whatever title or office space I hold it will be tied to my commitment to the work of the labor movement ensuring that workers have a voice.