Loyola Alum Elected Head of CA Democratic Party
Longtime labor leader Rusty Hicks ’14, president of the Los Angeles County federal of Labor, AFL-CIO, is no stranger to coalition building. So it was no surprise that he focused on unity for the California Democratic Party when he was named its chair in June.
“My leadership style has never been about one individual at the top. It’s been about the collective power of all of us,” Hicks told Madeleine Brand on the June 5 episode of KPCC-FM’s “Press Play.” “The role of the party is to engage and empower 9 million Democrats to bring the platform of the party to life and actually improve the lives of 40 million Californians.”
Unity was a theme as Hicks spoke during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco in early June. A pivotal figure heading into the 2020 presidential election, Hicks will appoint the members of the nine standing committees of the California Democratic Party and rebuild the party in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that prompted the resignation of his predecessor.
Given Hicks’ background, his approach is only fitting.
“Coming out of the labor movement, I believe in the collective. I don’t believe in the individual,” Hicks said. “In order to see a change in the White House, we’re going to have to have a real change in the California Democratic Party, and that starts with us standing together tonight.”
Hicks’ path to party leadership has been long and winding. He had to put his legal education on pause when he was deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy. He returned to his legal studies while serving as director of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, an affiliate-based organization that represents all unions in the county.
“Loyola was so supportive when I had to leave school for my military commitment and they helped me when I returned to finish my degree,” said Hicks.
Sooner than a year after earning his law degree, Hicks was selected to lead the organization as president. As Hicks put it, the JD helped him frame his perspective.
“I enjoy the political aspects of the social justice movement and addressing equality in Southern California and Los Angeles. Since the completion of my legal education, I have seen a difference in my level of awareness when dealing with people from all walks of life.”