The national labor organization celebrates a bold vision for the future led by two women of color with decades of experience in worker advocacy
United for Respect (UFR) announced Thursday that after a unanimous decision by the board, Bianca Agustin and Terrysa Guerra will lead the group into its next chapter as Co-Executive Directors. Agustin and Guerra share a bold vision for the future of labor organizing that centers the voices and priorities of the millions of women and BIPOC Americans who work in frontline jobs at the nation’s largest and most profitable retailers, Amazon and Walmart. The pair come into this collaborative role with decades of experience leading labor and advocacy campaigns. With this announcement, UFR becomes one of the few national labor organizations led by two women of color.
“Bianca and I both grew up in families that got by on agricultural work, domestic work, doing jobs that were excluded by law from labor standards and collective bargaining because of historic racism,” says Terrysa Guerra. “I think that’s one reason we were both drawn to United for Respect, and why we have such a strong shared vision of what’s needed in our labor movement today. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner in this role with her to amplify the priorities of the millions of low wage workers, often BIPOC women, on the front lines of the retail economy. ”
This exciting leadership change comes as an upswell in organizing through nontraditional channels is pushing workers’ rights to the forefront of the national conversation around industry, policy, and labor. Agustin and Guerra, who both come from previous positions at UFR, applied as co-directors to meet this historic moment for the labor movement with smart strategy and unrelenting tenacity.
“I am honored to be selected for the role of Co-Director and to fight on behalf of working families with Terrysa by my side,” says Bianca Agustin. “United for Respect will continue to fight for a fairer economy by supporting the leadership of frontline retail associates who are standing up and demanding dignity and respect, and I am inspired by the dynamic organizing strategies being developed by a new generation of worker leaders and activists.”
Co-directorships are becoming more common in non-profits and offer a refreshing change of pace and perspective from the historic norm of a single white man at the helm of an organization. UFR has chosen two women of color to lead together, towards a new vision for a powerfully intersectional approach to organizing and advocacy that centers the working people on the front lines of the country’s most profitable retail corporations – Amazon and Walmart – and challenges the predatory practices of private equity.
“In 2010, we began as OUR Walmart, an effort to win ‘$15 and full time’ for all retail associates at Walmart. We didn’t know where it would take us, we just knew we had to fight back against corporate greed and stand up for respect,” said Walmart Associate and UFR co-founder Cynthia Murray, who sits on the board of UFR and was involved in the hiring decision. “We never dreamed how our movement would grow. We’ve brought the fight for low wage retail workers to stores like Amazon, Toys R’ Us, and Dollar General, and we’ve put tens of millions back into the pockets of retail workers. Now these two remarkable women have joined us to lead this organization into a new chapter in 2023. I am so proud of United for Respect.”
Agustin and Guerra step into these roles as co-directors from complementary previous positions at UFR. They were selected to lead the organization based partly on the holistic, collaborative approach taken to their previous roles, focused respectively on corporate accountability and political programming. Together, their work has helped UFR confront powerful private equity-owned retailers, fight for hazard pay and safety protections for retail workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, usher in the new national labor standard of guaranteed severance pay, win stable working hours for over 2 million families, secure $20 million in a hardship fund for 30,000 Toys ‘R’ Us workers, and activate low wage workers to vote in elections.
Agustin and Guerra bring a combined 40 years of experience in labor organizing, taking on major corporate entities and activating lower income voters to see their priorities reflected in what bills are taken up by Congress. Their respective backgrounds reflect the primary strategies United for Respect relies on to build up worker power and embody the group’s plans for the future. Both women are first-generation college graduates whose careers have centered around confronting injustice and affecting change.
United for Respect is proud to continue to advocate for the rights of working people and fight for a more equitable future guided by Guerra and Agustin’s inspiring vision and leadership.
Bianca Agustin was born and raised in the border town of El Centro, California. She is the descendant of Filipino and Mexican immigrant farmworkers and a first generation college graduate. While attending UC Berkeley, Bianca became active in Students Organizing for Justice in the Americas and United Students Against Sweatshops, developing student-labor coalitions in support of local unionization campaigns and successfully pushing the university to cut ties with apparel brands tied to abusive labor practices overseas. Her commitment to fighting for immigrant and worker rights led her to a career in the labor movement, working first as a corporate researcher on Justice for Janitors campaigns in NY, NJ, CT, and VA and then on campaigns that successfully organized thousands of multiservice, security, and airport workers with SEIU 32BJ. She joined United for Respect in 2019 as director of corporate accountability, overseeing the organization’s capital strategies and campaigns targeting private equity owned retailers and supporting people who work at Walmart and Amazon to fight for hazard pay and safety protections during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Terrysa Guerra was raised by her grandparents in Los Fresnos, Texas, a farming community near the US/Mexico border. Terrysa saw first-hand the difference a union job made for her family when she saw her mother and coworkers take collective action through their union advocating for better pay, working conditions and fighting privatization of their jobs. She learned by example from her grandparents the importance of voting and participating in the political process when they took her to vote for the first time when she was 18. As a first generation college student, Terrysa was recruited into a Democratic congressional campaign soon after graduating from Texas A&M University. She went on to work for the national and Texas state Democratic parties, managed the successful campaigns of two state senators and a state representative in Texas, and then as deputy campaign manager for the gubernatorial bid of Wendy Davis. Profiles of Terrysa ran in the New York Times and Marie Claire. After the 2016 election, Terrysa focused on combining her labor roots with her political skills at the Make It Work Campaign organizing around issues of paid leave, childcare and equal pay, and then managed the fair workweek campaign for retail workers at Center for Popular Democracy. In 2018, she joined United for Respect where she built organization’s policy and political programs that led to passing into law the new national labor standard of guaranteed severance pay, winning stable working hours for over 2 million families, helping win $20 million in a hardship fund for 30,000 Toys R Us workers, and building UFR’s efforts to reach low wage workers and activate them to vote in elections.
About United For Respect:
United for Respect (UFR) is a national non-profit organization. UFR is a multiracial movement of working people throughout the U.S. advancing a vision of an economy where our work is respected and our humanity recognized. UFR is not a labor union and does not intend or seek to represent retail employees over terms and conditions of employment or to bargain with retail employers. www.united4respect.org