National Executive Director Talking on two telephones at once, one in each ear, isn’t something most people normally do, but for Ben Monterroso, it’s become second nature.
From working as a janitor after emigrating from Guatemala to ensuring that Latinos in the United States become active participants in the country’s democratic process, Ben epitomizes the idea that with hard work and tenacity, results follow. Ben has dedicated his life to fostering the full civic participation of Latino citizens in the U.S., working tirelessly to build coalitions among community organizations, immigrant-sending countries, businesses and faith-based groups, as well as ethnic media, with the goal of creating a better future for Latinos and immigrants in this country.
Since 2006, Ben has served as National Executive Director for Mi Familia Vota and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund; Special Assistant to Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer of Service Employees International Union (SEIU); and National Director of Civic Participation for SEIU.
Under his direction, Mi Familia Vota became a co-founder of the historic, non-partisan national campaign¡Ya Es Hora! This multi-layered campaign represents the largest and most comprehensive effort to incorporate Latinos as full participants in the American democratic process and has played a crucial role in the unprecedented levels of legal permanent residents applying for citizenship, Latino citizens registering to vote and Latinos participating in the 2008, 2009, 2010 (voting and Census), and 2011 electoral cycle.
When Ben is not doing civic engagement work, he’s building positive relations between Guatemala and the U.S. In late 2011, the President of Guatemala honored Ben with the highest recognition that the government can confer on a civilian – La Orden del Quetzal.
This native son of Guatemala came to the U.S. in 1977 and shortly thereafter began a long-standing relationship with the labor movement by becoming a member of SEIU, the largest union in the country with 2.2 million members throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
Since 1981, Ben has worked for SEIU in different capacities and has contributed immensely to the advancement of the labor movement. For five years he worked organizing janitors, schools, hospitals, and homecare workers in California. In 1994, Ben became Deputy Director of the Campaign against Proposition 187, which intended to remove or to limit the rights of immigrants in the state of California. Two years later, he became the SEIU Regional Director for the Western Region of the United States, which is composed of eleven States, 30 SEIU locals and close to 650,000 members. Ben also served as the Director of Project “Voto Latino,” one of the first campaigns to help increase the Latino vote in Los Angeles. After this project, the “Organization of Los Angeles Workers” (OLAW) was formed; a crucial development in the creation of Mi Familia Vota, and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund.