Hector Figueroa, Union Leader With Impact, Dies at 57

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Hector Jose Figueroa was born on April 3, 1962, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. His parents, Luis and Castita, were both educators: His father was a school principal, his mother a teacher and principal.

After high school, Mr. Figueroa attended the University of Puerto Rico, but he left when student protests over tuition increases roiled the campus, said Ricardo Mosquera, a friend and former schoolmate.

Mr. Figueroa moved to New York, where he lived with an aunt in the Bronx and enrolled at New York University. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics there, he went on to study economics at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.

He spent the rest of his life in the labor movement, initially as a researcher with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in New York. He then joined the service workers union in Washington before going back to Puerto Rico to manage a successful campaign to organize public employees there.

Mr. Figueroa returned to New York as the secretary-treasurer of 32BJ in 2000. He was elected president in 2012 and re-elected last year.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his father; a brother, Luis; a sister, Vilma Figueroa Martinez; a daughter, Elena Figueroa; and a son, Eric, from his marriage to Maria Figueroa, which ended in divorce.

Mr. Engelstein recalled that as earnestly determined as Mr. Figueroa was, he also had an “impish” side that shone during staff meetings. His hands were always busy, he said, either playing with science-fiction action figures, posting opinions to his Twitter feed or sketching his colleagues.

“His notepads at our meetings often contained wonderful caricatures of everyone sitting around the room,” Mr. Engelstein said.


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