Between several massive strikes, democratic socialists getting elected to city council, new union organizing campaigns, successful ballot measures to tax the rich, and the ouster of several reactionary political figures, it’s a good time to be a leftist in Los Angeles.

by Abe Asher, Jacobin

In 2006, Hugo Soto-Martinez was just weeks away from becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college when something happened that changed the course of his life.

Soto-Martinez grew up in South Los Angeles as the son of two immigrant parents who worked as street vendors. When Soto-Martinez was sixteen, his father hurt his back and became unable to work, forcing Soto-Martinez to drop out of high school and get a job at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles to help support his family.

UTLA March in Los Angeles

Soto-Martinez kept the hotel job for years. He worked shifts as a food runner as he made his way through high school and then college, after which he planned to attend law school. But by 2006, things at the hotel had taken a turn for the worse. Working conditions had quickly deteriorated under new management, and eventually one of Soto-Martinez’s colleagues asked him if he wanted to try to unionize the place. He did.

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