LINDA CHAVEZ-THOMPSON Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


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Name: Linda Chavez Thompson                                                           
Born: 3 August 1944                                                                   
Linda Chavez-Thompson (August 3, 1944) is a second-generation Mexican                 
American and union leader. She was elected the executive vice-president of           
the AFL-CIO in 1995 and served until September 21, 2007. She is also a vice           
chair of the Democratic National Committee and a member of the board of               
trustees of United Way of America.                                                   
Chavez-Thompson was born in 1944. Her place of birth is not clear. Some               
sources indicate she was born in Mexico and brought without papers to the United     
States by her father, making her an illegal immigrant. Other sources say she         
was born as well as raised in either Lorenzo, Texas, or Lubbock, Texas.               
Still other sources say she was born in San Antonio. Her father was a                 
sharecropper, and she was one of nine (possibly only eight or seven; sources         
vary) children. At the age of 10, she took a job hoeing her father's cotton           
fields for the summer. It was a job she worked at for the next nine years. She       
also picked cotton for several years for 30 cents an hour. She dropped out of         
high school at age 16 to help support her family, and married at the age of 20.       
She gave birth to a daughter in 1964 and a son in 1976. She divorced her first       
husband in 1985 and married Robert Thompson, the long-time president of AFSCME's     
San Antonio local. He died in 1993.                                                   
In 1967, Chavez-Thompson became a secretary on the staff of the Laborers'             
International Union of North America. When a tornado struck the                       
Lubbock area that year, she volunteered to coordinate the AFL-CIO's relief           
efforts. She enjoyed the job so much, she became a staff organizer for the           
Laborers. Her first organizing campaign was to help city workers in Lubbock form     
a union. They were successful.                                                       
Realizing that public sector organizing was what she enjoyed most, Chavez-Thompson   
joined the staff of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal           
Employees (AFSCME) in San Antonio in 1971 as an assistant business agent. She         
was promoted to business agent, then was appointed executive director of Local       
2399, AFSCME's San Antonio afiliate. She became a fixture on local TV and in         
local newspapers. In 1978, she opposed a wildcat strike by members of her local,     
knowing they would be fired for striking.                                             
She was subsequently elected to the executive boards of the San Antonio Central       
Labor Council and the Texas AFL-CIO. She was elected a vice president of the         
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement in 1986. She was first elected an       
international vice president of AFSCME in 1988. In 1993, Chavez-Thompson             
became the first Hispanic woman elected to the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO.     
On March 1, 1995, she was elected executive director of AFSCME Texas Council 42,     
a statewide council of the union based in Austin with 12,000 members in 21