Detroit – UAW President Ray Curry announced with regret the passing of former UAW leader and staff member Esteban Torres who served as a United States Congressman from 1983 to 1999.
“Brother Torres was a leader for trade unionists not just at the UAW and in the United States but worldwide,” said Curry. He never forgot his roots and even in his long retirement he exemplified his work for human and civil rights and trade unionists.”
Rep. Torres was first elected Chief Steward at UAW Local 230 in 1958. He was later appointed to the UAW organizing staff and in 1963 UAW President Walter Reuther named him an International Representative in Washington D.C. From 1964 to 1968, Torres served as union director of the Inter-American Bureau for Caribbean and Latin American Affairs.
He returned to Los Angeles to serve the East Los Angeles community directly founding The East Los Angeles Community union, one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty agencies at the time. He then returned to the UAW as Assistant Director for International Affairs until the U.S. President Jimmy Carter appointed him Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) whose rank was comparable to that of a U.S. Ambassador from 1977 until 1979. He later served as a White House Aide to President Carter from 1979 to 1981.
“Brother Torres impacted many lives before he ever entered the halls of Congress,” said Curry. He had become an Ambassador, an aide to a President of the United States and a leader within the UAW and in his East Los Angeles community. But Brother Torres was far from done.”
Torres was elected to Congress eight times. He won assignments on the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee and the Small Business Committee. He chaired the Small Business Subcommittee on Environment and Labor. And he rose to be a member of the exclusive Appropriations Committee.
Torres chaired the Hispanic Caucus and was elected to House Democratic leadership, rising to deputy whip in 1991.
When he retired in 1998, Torres told reporters, “I have reached the pinnacle of success in my own eyes. I’m leaving while in good health. My wife and I want to enjoy life, my family, my grandchildren and to pursue personal goals.
In retirement he spent time with family sculpting and painting. Torres served on the California Transportation Commission, the Board of Directors for Fannie Mae, as chair of the East Valley Development Authority for the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, the Board of Directors for Entravision Communications, the Oversight Board for Industry’s Successor Agency and he was a visiting professor at Whittier College and UCLA.
In 2006, the Los Angeles Unified School District named a high school in East Los Angeles after Torres. The Esteban E. Torres High School, home of the Toros, opened on Sept. 13, 2010.
Brother Torres is survived by his wife Arcy and their children Carmen, Rena, Camille, Selina, and Steve; grandchildren Tanya, Kati, Bianca, Koby, Xavier, Nazaria, Diego and a grateful UAW membership.
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