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Tribute To Ophelia Collins Mcfadden

Rep. Julian C. Dixon

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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join with my distinguished colleagues, Representatives Howard Berman, Maxine Waters, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Xavier Becerra, and Juanita Millender-McDonald, in paying tribute today to Opehelia Collins McFadden, legendary leader of Local 434 of the Service Employees International Union in Los Angeles, California.

One of labor's most extraordinary and influential leaders, Ophelia is retiring and will be feted at a celebration in her honor in Los Angeles on October 8, 1999. We are, therefore, especially pleased to honor her today and to publicly acknowledge her more than three decades of outstanding service to the labor movement, to the Los Angeles community, and in particular, to the thousands of working men and women throughout Los Angeles who have achieved greater economic parity because of her steadfast leadership. Indeed, it is impossible to talk about the labor movement or the advances achieved in Los Angeles during the past thirty-plus years, without invoking Opehelia's name.

The story of Ophelia Collins McFadden begins, of course, with her birth in Kendleton, Texas. She attended schools in Conroe, Texas and received her undergraduate degree from Conroe Christian Teachers College. She moved to Los Angeles in 1959 and immediately joined the civil rights movement where she quickly gained a reputation as an indefatigable soldier in the fight to remove the insidious discriminatory barriers that were prevalent throughout this great nation.

In 1968 Ophelia joined local 434 of SEIU as a staff representative. She was promoted to senior staff representative in 1974 and one year later was elevated to Assistant General Manager. On January 1, 1978, she made history in the labor movement with her appointment as General Manager of SEIU Local 434--at the time the third largest County workers union in California. She is the first African American woman Vice President of SEIU, AFL-CIO and the first African American woman to serve on the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor board. Ophelia can lay claim to numerous accomplishments during her long tenure with SEIU, not the least of which is the critical role she played in helping to establish the Los Angeles County Affirmative Action guidelines.

As an activist, Ophelia is a formidable ally to have on your team. She has been involved in every major political race in Los Angeles County for the past thirty-one years. She has worked in voter registration drives throughout the county and was among the first SEIU members to work with former California State Legislators Richard Alatore and Art Torres in registering voters in the Latino community. She worked on the presidential campaigns of Walter Mondale and Ted Kennedy, and played a vital role in helping Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke Capture her first victory for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

She is a founding member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, as well as the Coalition of Labor Union Women; Vice President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the Western States Conference, SEIU, AFL-CIO; member of the Advisory Board of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC); and Chancellor of the Elinor Glenn Joint Council of Unions, Scholarship Trust.

In addition to her enormous responsibilities as the influential head of one of the most important labor locals in Los Angeles County, Ophelia serves as a member of the Conroe College Alumni Association, and is Vice President and a life member of the Los Angeles Branch of the NAACP. She is a member of Praises of Zion Church.

Ophelia Collins McFadden has taken her place on the front lines of every major labor initiative in the Los Angeles community. In 1986 she led the kick-off Homecare campaign and in 1989 was appointed General Manager of the Homecare Workers Union of local 434B. Each of us paying tribute to her today can, I am sure, offer a personal anecodote of a time when she has prevailed upon us to help her in her tireless fight for the rights of county workers.

Mr. Speaker, we are proud to honor Ophelia Collins McFadden as one of the greatest labor unionists of this century. We are privileged to know her and to thank her for the many contributions she has made to the Los Angeles community, and in particular to the thousands of health care and homecare workers in our respective congressional districts. We salute and commend her and ask that you join us in extending our heartfelt best wishes to her for a long and joyous retirement.