Laura Rico has worked in education for more than 40 years, starting as an early childhood teacher at the Artesia High School Children’s Center in the 1970s where she became a member of the ABC Federation of Teachers.

After helping lead her local’s successful eight-day strike in 1993, Rico worked to build the ABC Labor-Management Partnership, which would became a national model for successful union-district collaboration. She was elected local president in 1995 and served in that role until her retirement in 2011.

She simultaneously served as a vice president of the CFT, the AFT and the AFL-CIO — the only CFT member to hold all three vice presidencies.

One of Rico’s favorite sayings is the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In keeping with that, she thanked her mentors in the United Farm Workers, her local, the CFT, the AFT, the AFL-CIO.

Rico recalled her first Ben Rust award luncheon as a 23-year-old. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, there are a lot of old people in this room.’ Well, now I’m one of those old people.”

As current president of ABC’s Retiree Chapter, Rico helped form the new CFT Council of Retired Members and calls retirees an “untapped resource.”  

“Just imagine people that are pissed off … with time,” she said. “Take advantage of that.” Rico also encouraged the CFT to embrace younger members, including those who question leadership.

“Try and encourage young activists,” she said. “That’s the only way our struggle is going to survive. Quit taking the challenges personally. Isn’t that what we want our union members to do — to question us, to challenge us?”