Henry L. “Hank” Lacayo, a union leader with strong ties to political and business leaders across California and the nation, has died.
The 85-year-old rose to prominence organizing aircraft workers for the United Auto Workers in the early 1950s. After leading the UAW’s western regional office, he moved to UAW national headquarters in Detroit in the 1970s where he was a member of the union’s executive team.
After his retirement in 1986, he opened H.L. & Associates, a consulting firm that advised a number of clients including Verizon, Southern California Edison and SoCal Gas, on a variety of public policy issues. His Newbury Park home was a testament to his powerful influence, with walls lined with photos of him with presidents, CEOs and world leaders.
He devoted much of his post-retirement time to civic duties, working to strengthen the Ventura County Community Foundation and establishing the Destino Hispanic Legacy Fund to provide scholarships and other funding to serve the Latino community. Born in Los Angeles in 1931, he grew up in Mexico but returned to the U.S. for high school and served in the U.S. Air Force.
A powerful political figure, he helped Democratic Party candidates, notably U.S. Reps. Lois Capps and Julia Brownley and Assembly member Jacqui Irwin win close elections.
Lacayo had a strong centrist streak and fought to balance the party’s no-growth green partisans and its blue collar union forces. His death, after a long battle with cancer, may expose those divisions on the Central Coast, where redistricting and the open primary system have made races more competitive.
Much of Lacayo’s philanthropy in the area was dedicated to CSU Channel Islands, where he served on the CI Foundation Board of Trustees. He donated his UAW archives to the university, creating the Lacayo Institute for Workforce and Community Studies, a think tank devoted to the study of the changing workplace. He received an honorary doctorate from CI in 2012 and also was inducted into the Pacific Coast Business Times Hall of Fame.
Lacayo was a mentor to many Latino leaders in the region and was known affectionately as “tio” or uncle by many.
On a personal note, Lacayo understood the value of the Business Times and its nonpartisan approach to politics as a way of advancing business interests and the regional economy.
With the passing of Mike Towbes, Lon Morton and Lacayo in a matter of weeks, the region has lost three men of character who were highly successful, extremely competitive but whose success was dependent on their ability to keep lines of communication open with many people who shared a different point of view.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]