Héctor was born into the labor movement in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where his parents, as teachers, were part of a long struggle to win a union at work. His mother and father went on strike in 1974, but it wasn’t until 24 years later under Hector’s leadership as SEIU Organizing Director for Puerto Rico that the teachers won collective bargaining rights. Under his leadership, teachers, state employees and his own parents were finally able to see the fruit of their many years of struggle for justice.
Héctor came to the United States in 1982 after participating in a student strike. He stayed with an aunt and uncle in the Bronx and completed his college education on a grant to study economics. Driven to continue his activism, Héctor started with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (now Workers United) in 1990, where he took part in several campaigns including efforts to organize textile workers at Fieldcrest Cannon in North Carolina and protests against NAFTA. Héctor was one of the first leaders in the labor movement to strongly advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and played an active role in ACTWU’s international solidarity and global organizing work.
In 1995, he joined SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign, followed by his work in Puerto Rico as SEIU Director for the island. In February 1999, he was asked to serve as deputy trustee for 32BJ and was elected as Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ in 2000. During his time at 32BJ, Héctor built and led the research and political departments, and served as leader for the tri-state and New York Metro areas. As Director of the 32BJ New York Metro District, Héctor led operations and bargained strong contracts for 70,000 members in the metropolitan New York area, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Long Island.
Under Héctor’s leadership, the union has become a political powerhouse, fighting for immigrant and worker rights and establishing the American Dream Fund, the union’s voluntary political action fund. In cities and states up and down the East Coast 32BJ has passed legislation that protects and lifts working families and communities: the union has successfully raised the minimum wage; established prevailing wage; increased minimum hours; protected workers when building owners change contractors; shielded immigrants from targeting by ICE; expanded language access and other immigrant rights. 32BJ has also been a leader in the Fight for $15 since the first strike of 200 fast food workers in New York City, and in 2017 passed a package of fair scheduling bills for fast food workers in New York City along with the ground-breaking Fast Food Worker Empowerment Act, which allows fast food workers to more easily form and join their own organization. Under Héctor’s leadership, the union and its 163,000 members have been at the forefront of national fights to defend and expand voting rights, to fight the root causes and effects of climate change, and is a constant champion for racial, social and economic justice.
In recognition of his vision and leadership, Héctor was elected to the SEIU International Executive Board in 2012 and serves on its Political Strength Committee and is Chair of the SEIU Puerto Rico Task Force. He serves on the boards of several organizations, including the National Institute for Latino Policy, Urban Green, the Working Families Party, Good Jobs First and on the New Labor Forum’s editorial board. Hector is the recipient of many awards, including the Demos Transforming America Award, the Somos El Futuro Labor Award, the Outreach Project Annual Service Award, the Working Theater Outstanding Labor Leadership Award and the Citizen Action of NY Progressive Leadership Award.
Héctor lives in Queens, New York, with his wife Deidre, and his children, Eric and Elena.