Solorio Names Marisol Rivera as the 69th AD Woman of the Year

Assemblyman Solorio and Woman of the Year honoree Marisol Rivera, an Orange County labor organizer (center), on the Assembly floor for 2012 Woman of the Year ceremonies

Assemblyman Jose Solorio’s (D-Anaheim) choice for his Sixty-Ninth Assembly District’s Woman of the Year is one of Orange County’s most dedicated labor leaders –Marisol Rivera, an Orange County labor organizer.

“I would like to personally thank Marisol Rivera for her passion to discover the potential in her fellow workers,” says Solorio. “Marisol’s life story and how she rose above her own circumstances to help others serves as an inspiration to all of us. She is special.”

In official ceremonies marking Women’s History Month, Assemblyman Solorio escorted Ms. Rivera to the Assembly floor. There, she was recognized for making “California a better place” as Assemblyman Solorio, Assembly Speaker Perez, Assemblymember Mitchell and Assemblymember Conway presented her with a framed certificate.

Since 2001, Ms. Rivera has coordinated the work of the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers in West Orange County. Her dedication has earned her the title of Orange County Coordinator/Vice President.

“My only dream when I came to America was to study and be a better person. But I learned that the American dream doesn’t simply happen, you have to look for it,” Rivera explained. “My parents’ experience affected me. I started to get involved at work because I cared about the other workers. I cared about people’s rights.”

Ms. Marisol Rivera was born in El Salvador. At the age of 12, she fled her homeland to be with her parents in the United States. They were restaurant workers struggling to support their growing family here, and continue to send money home. Their wages were minimal, and after 10 years, their paychecks remained unchanged. To help out, Rivera left school to take baby sitting and cleaning jobs until an opportunity to become a janitor surfaced at a movie studio. Even as a teenager, she could understand the plight of workers with no sick leave, no vacation and no benefits.

Ms. Rivera’s leadership skills were recognized in 2000, when the janitors went on strike as part of the “Justice for Janitors” effort. Her co-workers elected her Strike Captain and set in motion more than a decade of dedicated community and civic participation and leadership.   “I was a single mom with my own personal struggles,” Rivera remembered. “So, worker to worker conversations were more effective. I could visit worker’s homes and relate to their circumstances because they were my circumstances too. Together, we could build trust. In eight months, we organized 2,000 workers, one worker at a time.”

Rivera has been dedicated ever since to improving the lives of low-wage workers and their families in Orange County by fighting for livable wages, health care and educational opportunities.

“Rivera was a natural choice for the Woman of the Year honor,” said Solorio. “She has been instrumental in creating a Building Skills Partnership where janitors are able to learn English, computer skills and take U.S. Citizenship preparation classes. She is a proud mother who helps to empower other women to find their American dream just as she did. She is an inspiration.”

Humbled by her success, Rivera adds, “I was the lucky one. I was offered the chance to be an organizer. If I die tomorrow, I can die knowing I helped others.”   State Assemblyman Jose Solorio is the Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee and also serves on the Assembly Appropriations and Transportation committees. He represents the Sixty-Ninth Assembly District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana. For more information about Assemblyman Solorio, visit www.assembly.ca.gov/solorio.