Co-Chair of Arts and Culture
Estela Vazquez is an Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU, the largest healthcare union in the country with approximately 400,000 members. As an Executive Officer she heads a team that represents 15,000 hospital workers at Montefiore Medical Center, Beth Israel, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Medical Centers, and other institutions.
A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Estela became politically active in 1961 as a junior high school student, joining demonstrations to demand the removal from government of the family and supporters of the brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo, who had been in power for 31 years.
In April 1965 a popular uprising in the Dominican country demanding the return of the constitutionally elected President Juan Bosch led to the intervention of US Marines. Estela, like many other Dominican youth, was an active participant, and she was arrested in May 1965 and held in prison until her mother was able to obtain her release from jail in August of that year.
Estela came to New York City August 13th 1965 and she has made the city her home ever since.
She has been involved in numerous struggles for social and economic justice. In the 1970s, she joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and was a founding member in 1984 of Latinos for Jesse Jackson. She has represented the Union in numerous local, national, and international events including as an observer to the first Democratic election in South Africa in 1994. In 1995 Estela attended the United Nation’s Decade of Women conference in Beijing, China.
Prior to her joining the staff of 1199 she was a housing / community organizer working with the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. In East Harlem in the ‘80s she was a leader against the movement for gentrification and helped and assisted in forming homesteading groups in the neighborhood.
Over the years she has been actively involved in the immigrants’ rights struggle, women’s issues, political campaigns, and community empowerment in East Harlem/El Barrio.
Recently Estela served as the lead Organizer at 1199SEIU for the People’s Climate March held in New York City in which over 400,000 marchers were present. She was also a labor observer at the 20th session of the UN Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru.