Hector Figueroa, a powerful and respected New York labor leader whose reach easily extended into New Jersey, died last night of an apparent heart attack. He was 57.
Figueroa has been the president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union since 2012 and had been with SEIU since 1995.
“For those of us who have worked with him to further the well-being of our members and working people everywhere, and felt his personal and principled concern for our members, our staff and others this is a devastating loss,” the union said in a statement.
Figueroa was part of a successful fight to get airport employees at Newark Liberty International Airport as part of a nationwide effort to raise their pay to $15-per-hour.
“Hector dedicated his life to fighting for better wages and conditions for all workers. His support was invaluable to me, and his tireless efforts were invaluable to our ongoing work of strengthening the rights and improving the lives of working families — especially our work to put New Jersey’s minimum wage on its current path to $15 an hour. That law, and the millions of families it will lift, will be part of Hector’s strong and lasting legacy,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “Our working families have lost a fierce advocate. We have all lost a dear friend.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney also mourned Figueroa’s passing.
“This is a tragic and sudden loss not only for the family, but for working people throughout the region and across the country. In a life that was cut far too short, Hector fought for the rights, wages and dignity of hardworking men and women in diverse professions and walks of life,” Sweeney said. “To say Hector will be missed would be to understate the impact his passing will have on his family, his union members and the labor movement throughout New York and New Jersey. Thank you, Hector, for all you have done to make our communities stronger, fairer, more empowered and better represented. Your legacy will live on.”
“Hector Figueroa was a prominent labor leader who fought for working families. He had a vision to change communities for the better and followed through on his promise to make those changes come to life,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughin. “He was a respected figure that dedicated his life to public service and his legacy will live on. I send my deepest condolences to his wife and children, and the 32BJ family.”
Comment from Murphy, Sweeney and Coughlin were added to an earlier version of this story.