Sergio Rascon became a construction worker like his father when he was 17, tagging along with him to Laborers Local 300 meetings and begging his father to get him into the union, even though he knew the answer was absolutely not—because his father thought Sergio should go to college.
That was in 1971, shortly after the earthquake in Sylmar, and there was a lot of repair work to be done, and Sergio was so determined to work that his father finally gave in. Sergio started out making the union-scale wage of $3.85 an hour—and he loved the work because he was "young, healthy and strong."
His family had come to the U.S. when Sergio was only 10, and he and his brothers worked picking oranges, lemons and grapefruit in Fillmore and Santa Paula on weekends. There was something special about Sergio that people responded to—he was earnest, honest, unafraid, and respected. And it was a very different time—when immigrants could get a green card in less than a month, whereas now Sergio knows people who have been waiting for 8-10 years.
Sergio continued to attend union meetings and move up the labor ladder, soon becoming a labor foreman and then a dispatcher, and later an executive board member, president of the board, assistant to the Business Manager, and then the Business Manager himself in 1995—the highest position in the union but with an election every 3 years.
Join us on Zoom to celebrate labor leader Sergio Rascon's success and his partnership with us on Measures R and M, Thurs., March 25, 5:30-7 p.m. Register HERE. You can toast all of our honorees—we're providing the drinks!
He didn’t meet Denny Zane until 2007. That’s when Denny had begun testing the waters to see how much interest there was in supporting a funding measure that could conceivably get on the 2008 ballot and raise the money needed to begin construction of a better public transit system in LA County.
Denny knew that LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was interested, especially in building a subway to the sea, and Denny had already begun to think about building a coalition, with labor as a key member. Sergio was the first labor leader to agree to help with this campaign—building a new transportation system would provide a lot of jobs for members of Laborers Local 300.
Sergio was also one of the first to understand that the best way to find the money needed to build a new transit system was to go to voters with a ballot measure proposing it. Meantime, Denny organized a conference at the downtown LA Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels), attended by about 300 people, and Sergio sat on a panel at the end of the day that went on to become the most important moment in LA County's recent transit history.
Also on the panel was LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Metro Boardmember Richard Katz, political strategist Parke Skelton, pollster John Fairbanks and Sergio, with Denny as moderator. And the question that brought it all home was: “Could a ballot measure like this win?”
Denny says that Sergio’s response was one of the biggest take-aways from the meeting for him because Sergio said: “It’s better to try and to lose, than not to try at all. Because if we don’t try, then we won’t know. And if we try and we lose, just let it be—at least we won’t have to be ashamed that we didn’t do anything.”
Sergio’s observation proved both wise and prophetic.
“Look at where we are after passing Measures R and M," he told us last week. "Look at what we’ve built and the jobs that were created. No one can say they voted for something that came to nothing, that it was money that only benefited some people. We all depend on infrastructure projects. No one can say it wasn’t the proper thing to do.”
Join us Thurs., March 25, to also celebrate the accomplishments of Metro CEO Phil Washington, former Metro Boardmember/former Duarte Mayor John Fasana, former Metro Boardmember/Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, BizFed CEO Tracy Hernandez, Skanska Executive Vice President Mike Aparicio, and LA Business Council President Mary Leslie! REGISTER HERE.