South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council is the Silicon Valley local AFL-CIO federation representing 101 unions in Santa Clara and San Benito Counties in California. The Council represents a number of labor unions including locals of the AFSCME, AFT, SEIU, and Unite Here. 1
Leadership within the organization and the Council itself are active in supporting the Democratic Party and left-of-center social and political movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Affordable Care Act, and liberal expansionist immigration policy.
Black Lives Matter Movement
South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council released a statement following the police-custody death of George Floyd and associated demonstrations and riots condemning what the organization called “the white supremacy and anti-Black racism that permeates our society.” Following the riots, the Council partnered with the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP to push a race-based agenda regarding economic inequality, race relations, and supposed disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on ethno-minority communities. 2
South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council has expressed support on numerous occasions for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). South Bay AFL-CIO was listed as an endorser for Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and the Affordable Care Act in 2016, among 60 other California labor unions and union federations. 3
South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council has expressed support for movements and legislative proposals pushing expansionist immigration policy. The Council organized a campaign in 2021 urging union members and the public to call their senators and asking to include expanded rights for illegal immigrants in Congress’s next budget. Specifically, the organization called for the budget to include a “broad path to citizenship” for people living and working illegally in the United States. 4
In 2019, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council condemned San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) after he proposed changing the city’s “sanctuary” status for illegal immigrants. Liccardo proposed changes to the policy or non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities after the murder of a San Jose woman at the hands of repeat immigration offender Fernando De Jesus Lopez-Garcia, who remained in the city due to its protection of illegal immigrants against Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities. Lopez-Garcia had been arrested numerous times in the past and charged with battery of a spouse, assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, battery of an officer, and vandalism. 5 Dianna Zamora Marroquin spoke on behalf of the organization after the murder, saying, “The community as a whole was frightened and upset, and he chose to demonstrate his leadership by politicizing this tragedy, versus bringing immigrants together. . . . This is an issue about homelessness and mental health, but the mayor chose to make it about immigration.” 6
In 2021, the organization was one of many to sign onto a petition expressing support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), a bill that passed in the House of Representatives in March 2021 that would largely expand labor union powers in the United States. The PRO Act would restrict the right of companies to hire contractors and free-lancers to their workforces, instead requiring their options to union-member workers. 7 South Bay AFL-CIO also held a virtual panel in 2021 hosted by leaders from six labor unions including the AFL-CIO, the NFLPA, and the USW, discussing and advocating for the PRO Act. 8
Silicon Valley Rising
Silicon Valley Rising is a project of the South Bay AFL-CIO and Working Partnerships USA, a left-wing organization focused on community organizing. The organization is primarily focused on influencing large technology companies to increase wages and benefits for low-income employees such as security guards, janitorial staff, and maintenance workers. 9 10
Jean Cohen is the executive director of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, and an active participant in California Democratic politics. Cohen serves as the vice-chair for the Santa Clara County Democratic Party. 11 Cohen has made a several grants to Democratic organizations and individuals. Notably, she has made $550 in donations to the Santa Clara County United Democratic Campaign since 2020; $50 to Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee during his failed 2020 run for Senate; $100 to Biden for President, the PAC associated with President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign; $150 to the Progressive Turnout Project, a Democratic voter turnout PAC; and more than $2,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees between 2016 and 2018. 12
Ben Field is the former executive director of the South Bay AFL-CIO. Field is a U.C. Berkeley-educated lawyer with a Ph.D. in U.S. history who served as the deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County, and as a professor of history at San Jose State University. 13 Field was charged in 2007 with 25 counts of legal misconduct in four cases that he tried as deputy district attorney. A California Bar review panel found that “Field’s misconduct escalated over time and constituted ‘a calculated scheme to hide evidence favorable to the defense.’” 14 Field received a four-year suspension from the California Bar in 2007 and quit law to take his role with the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council.
South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council reported total revenue of $815,614 and expenses totaling $789,109 in 2019. It reported net assets of $957,056 in the same year. 15 Ben Field was the highest paid employee of the organization in 2019 and brought in a total of $172,335 in salary and other reported compensation. 16
- Affiliates: South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. Accessed October 17, 2021. https://www.southbaylabor.org/affiliates
- “South Bay Labor Movement Stands in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.” South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. Accessed October 17, 2021. https://www.southbaylabor.org/black_lives_matter
- “Endorsers for HR676 (California)” PNHP. Accessed October 24, 2021. http://pnhp.org/docs/HR676_CA.pdf
- “Tell your senators to support good jobs and a pathway to citizenship.” South Bay AFL-CIO Council. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://actionnetwork.org/call_campaigns/jobs?source=unionhall
- “Criminal alien arrested for double homicide after local law enforcement fails to honor ICE immigration detainers.” ICE.gov. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/criminal-alien-arrested-double-homicide-after-local-law-enforcement-fails-honor-ice
- “Labor leaders condemn Sam Liccardo over stance on immigration.” San Jose Spotlight. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://sanjosespotlight.com/labor-leaders-condemn-sam-liccardo-over-stance-on-immigration/
- “The PRO Act would trample worker choice and damage economic freedom.” R Street Institute. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://www.rstreet.org/pro-act/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwiNSLBhCPARIsAKNS4_cV3LIs5HztQX7V5anukYuSDlcvgKN8UiFC11_oMvTqARKiFb7rozUaAnpeEALw_wcB
- “Passing the PRO Act and Building the Next Union Generation.” South Bay AFL-CIO. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://unionhall.aflcio.org/south-bay-afl-cio-labor-council/events/passing-pro-act-and-building-next-union-generation
- “Silicon Valley Rising”. Silicon Valley Rising. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://www.siliconvalleyrising.org/.
- “About Us.” Silicon Valley Rising. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://www.siliconvalleyrising.org/about/.
- “User Profile: Jean Cohen.” LinkedIn.com. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeancohen/
- Individual Contributions: Jean Cohen. FEC.gov. Accessed October 24, 2021.
- “User Profile: Ben Field.” LinkedIn.com. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-field-138a2ab/
- “Four year suspension for ex-deputy DA upheld.” California Bar Journal. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://www.calbarjournal.com/March2010/TopHeadlines/TH6.aspx
- 2019 IRS 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax: South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. Part I: Summary.
- 2019 IRS 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax: South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. Part VII: Compensation of Key Employees.