Have you ever heard of the Spanish Word “Ganas?"

The Spanish word “ganas” is best translated into English into the words “will” or “desire.” It is also the best way to describe the Orange County Labor Federation’s Executive Director, Julio Perez. Having “ganas” is not just about wanting something though, it is more about working your butt of for it!

“Orange County ranks 4th in the number of millionaires we have. There is no reason why workers in Orange County should not be sharing in that wealth and prosperity.”

JulioIt is clear Julio learned his “ganas” from his working class family in the working class barrio of Tijuanita, Anaheim. Just under the shadow of the mammoth Disneyland resort Julio’s entire neighborhood marveled at the wealth and prosperity of Disneyland while their families struggled to make ends meet.

Born to immigrant parents from Jalisco, Mexico, Julio quickly learned the value of hard work and community. It has led the direction he has chosen to take his life in. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Julio began his career at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) as a policy analyst where he worked to implement labor standards, living wages and responsible contracting at local municipalities.  But Julio caught his political bug working at Strengthening Our Lives (SOL), at the time the largest Latino political action committee in the nation. After several important victories at SOL, Julio took his first Union job at SEIU’s United Health Care Workers West as a political organizer where he saw first hand the interception between quality pay and standards for health care workers and quality health care for all of us.

In 2009 Julio became the Political Director at the Orange County Labor Federation under Tefere Gebre then the Executive Director. But sometimes Julio’s gains take him too far and in 2012 Julio ran for California’s 69th Assembly District seat falling just a few hundred votes of shocking the California political establishment. Thankfully, Julio is still here with us building a powerful labor federation. After Tefere’s appointment as a National Executive Officer at the AFL of CIO, Julio’s “ganas” proved to be what the Orange County Labor Federation needed  in a new Executive Director. Julio sees his job very simply, “Orange County ranks 4th in the number of millionaires we have. There is no reason why workers in Orange County should not be sharing in that wealth and prosperity.

Julio has a collaborative and fresh view of his role, especially here in Orange County.  Julio’s commitment to the progressive movement is seen through his work developing cooperative partnerships and coalitions throughout Orange County. Julio has served on the board of El Centro Cultural de Mexico, being a founding member of the OC Immigration Coalition, Los Amigos de Orange County, AD 69th Delegate for the Democratic Party, OC RISE-UP, Chancellor’s Latino Advisory Committee for the North Orange County Community College District, the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, working as an advisor to Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations and many others.

Julio currently serves of the Board of Directors of OCCORD, the Orange County Workforce Investment Board, Vice Chair of the Labor Caucus for the California Democratic Party, is VP of the Young Workers of California and serves on the Strategic Planning Committee for both the California Labor Federation and the AFL-CIO.

Julio Perez, Executive Director, Orange County Labor Federation