Fred Ross Jr. was born in Long Beach, California in 1947. He spent his early childhood living in Boyle Heights where his primary language was Spanish. He grew up in a household where fighting injustice and racial prejudice was a way of life. His father Fred Ross Sr. was a trailblazing organizer in the barrios and fields of California. His mother, Frances Ross pioneered in providing comprehensive services to the mentally ill. It is without question that Fred’s passion for organizing for social and economic justice is in his DNA.
After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1970, he joined the United Farm Workers. He was immediately put to work organizing as part of the historic Salinas and Santa Maria lettuce strike. There he had the great opportunity to be trained and mentored. By Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and his own father Fred Ross Sr.
In 1971 and 1972, he led organizing campaigns of farm workers in Oregon and Washington. Continuing his ongoing work with the UFW, in 1975, he spearheaded the 20,000 person March on Gallo that demonstrated that the farmworker movement had broad and growing support.
After those key years with the UFW, he decided to consider a new career in law. He graduated from USF Law School in 1980 and worked as a public defender in San Francisco until 1983. But his understanding of the power of collective action and his work representing Salvadoran refugees led him to return to his roots in organizing. In 1985 he founded and served as the Executive Director of the national grass roots organization Neighbor to Neighbor with the goal of challenging the Reagan Administration’s Contra War in Nicaragua and it’s support for the death squad regime in El Salvador.
Having spent his formative and academic years in the San Francisco Bay Area, in 1987, Ross turned his organizing skills to lead the grass roots get out the vote campaign that helped elect N2N’s key ally, Nancy Pelosi as San Francisco’s representative to Congress.
From 1994 to 1996, Ross worked in Los Angeles as a community organizer with Industrial Areas Foundation. In the aftermath of the anti- immigrant proposition 187 he launched the Active Citizenship Campaign.
In 1998, Ross returned to his roots as a labor organizer for SEIU, organizing workers in the healthcare and service industries. In 2009 he joined the staff of IBEW 1245 where he has had the opportunity to develop innovative programs working with the ranks of utility workers under the leadership of fellow UFW alum Tom Dalzell. He and the IBEW team, including Eileen Purcell, are focused on the recruitment and training of the next generation of organizers dedicated to social justice and solidarity. There program has given the members the opportunity to work not only on IBEW campaigns but those of its allies.
Fred is married to Margo Feinberg, a union labor lawyer who he shares not only his world values, but also the focus on family including, their two children, Charley, 21 and Helen 19. Not surprisingly, he is passing it on and both children have been on the picket lines since their toddler years.