Yvonne Wheeler (Leroy Hamilton)

Bakewell Media and the L.A. Sentinel will honor six amazing women at the “Power, Leadership and Influence of the Black Woman” event on Saturday, April 13, at the Fairmont Century Plaza.   

One of the influential honorees is Yvonne Wheeler, the first Black woman president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor. She has held this position since November 2022. 

 Wheeler said that receiving this honor and recognition from the L.A. Sentinel inspires her to continue striving for excellence and to empower others on their journey. Wheeler notes that the Bakewells have been an integral part of her career and she’s known them since she left Louisiana and arrived in Los Angeles. She considers them family.  

Yvonne Wheeler and Vice President Kamala Harris (File photo)

“It’s an immense honor to me. It signifies a recognition of my contributions, dedication and impact within the community. It also serves as a validation of the hard work and perseverance that I put into all my endeavors. Moreover, it’s a powerful acknowledgment of the strength, resilience and leadership of Black women, highlighting the importance of diversity and representation in leadership roles,” Wheeler said.  

 Her sense of leadership, public service and advocacy has been deeply influenced by several key figures and experiences throughout her life.  

“My parents played a significant role in shaping my values and instilling a sense of responsibility towards serving others. From a young age, they emphasized the importance of empathy, compassion and giving back to our community. As I grew older and moved to California, other influential figures, particularly women in the labor movement and the community, further shaped my perspective and fueled my passion for advocacy,” Wheeler said. 

Yvonne Wheeler, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., and Charisse Bremond-Wheeler (File photo)

These essential influences and mentors for Wheeler were Brenda Marsh-Mitchell, Ophelia McFadden, and Arlene Holt Baker. They were all powerful women whose guidance led Wheeler to make her own history as the first Black woman to hold her title as president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor.  

“[It’s an] incredibly humbling and empowering experience. It fills me with immense pride to have the opportunity to break barriers and pave the way for future generations of Black women in leadership roles. Being entrusted with this significant responsibility is both a privilege, but also a challenge,” explained Wheeler.  

“It’s a privilege because it signifies the trust and confidence that was placed in me by my peers and, co-workers and constituents. But it’s also a challenge because it comes with a great deal of responsibility to represent and advocate for the interests of our diverse workforce here in Los Angeles County.”  

Wheeler has learned several invaluable lessons as president that helped to shape her perspective and approach to leadership such as the importance of collaboration and building coalitions with diverse unions, community organizations, and elected officials to help amplify the collective impact and bring meaningful change. 

“And then also empowering others as a leader–you know that you have to empower those around you. I try to empower them each and every day to be their own individual and authentic selves because I can’t be effective if the people around me aren’t effective as well,” Wheeler said. 

As she continues her presidency, Wheeler’s overarching goal is to advance the rights and well-being of the communities in Los Angeles. She hopes to strengthen workplace protections, including fair wages, safe working conditions and access to affordable health care and benefits for the workers. Another priority for Wheeler and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is helping the unhoused community. 

“Measure H, if passed, would allow $2.5 billion over a decade to go into building affordable housing, creating a pathway out of poverty, by pre-apprenticeship programs getting into the apprenticeship programs, providing resources to direct services, so those who are homeless or unhoused could have direct services and also having protections [to prevent wrongful evictions,” Wheeler said. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, Wheeler’s advice for women trying to find their purpose or make a difference is not to be afraid to step out of their comfort zone, take risks, and embrace their failure because it’s an opportunity for growth and learning. 

“Take time to do an introspection and identify what truly matters to you. Whatever you’re passionate about, what are the values you hold dear to you? Your purpose often aligns with your passions and your values. Don’t try to make big changes, but start small. Making a difference does not always require grand gestures,” said Wheeler.  

“Begin by identifying small ways you can contribute positively to your community or whenever it is your choice. The causes that you care about and even small actions count and can lead to bigger impacts over time. And always seek inspiration from others. We all need role models.”