Jose Loya: from Military Service to Union Leadership

This story is part of a larger series introducing you to our Vets of Steel coordinators. Check out our news section for more.

For many veterans, transitioning from military service to civilian life is a journey filled with challenges and opportunities. This transition led to a significant role within the United Steelworkers Union for Jose Loya, a former Sergeant E5 in the United States Marine Corps. His story is a remarkable example of how skills and values from military service can powerfully translate into union leadership. 

Jose's military journey began as a response to the events of 9/11. His commitment to protect and serve, fueled by his gratitude for the opportunities America provided to his family, led him to the Marines, known for their exceptional standards and camaraderie. As a machine gunner on tour in Iraq, Jose experienced the intense bonds and collective mission that define military service. These experiences, particularly his roles in securing vital locations and working alongside tank battalions, ingrained in him a deep sense of duty, teamwork, and resilience.

After his honorable discharge from the Marines, Jose embarked on a new chapter in Texas. His first civilian job was at a non-union meat packing plant, starkly contrasting his military life. However, it was his next job at the USW represented Valero Refinery that became a turning point. Here, Jose's involvement with the union began, first as a Guard in his local, then ascending to Vice President. His passion and commitment caught the attention of the Union, leading him to the USW’s Leadership Scholarship Program. This program was a catalyst, opening doors for Jose to become a District 13 Staff Representative, a role he embraces enthusiastically. He also now serves as the District 13 Veterans of Steel Coordinator.

Jose draws parallels between the solidarity of the military and the union. The Vets of Steel program resonates with his military background. It's not just a program but a commitment to empowering veterans, a cause close to his heart.

For Jose, the camaraderie and collective purpose in the USW are reminiscent of his time in the Marines. The union's focus on mutual support, advocacy, and a shared mission echoes the military's values. In both realms, the sense of brotherhood, sisterhood, and collective identity is prominent, fostering aunique bond among all members. This similarity makes transitioning from military to union a natural fit for veterans like Jose.

Jose's tenure as the Veterans of Steel Coordinator for District 13 has been marked by remarkable experiences and contributions. He proudly recalls testifying before Congress on a bill crafted within the USW, directly influencing legislation benefiting veterans. His involvement in the communities of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas has been a rewarding experience. Jose emphasizes the program's empowerment aspect, helping veterans transition into the workforce and become active, engaged union members. His dedication to these initiatives underscores the union's commitment to unity, support, and advocacy. 

Jose Loya's journey is a beacon for other veterans navigating their post-military paths. His story highlights how the values and skills honed in the military can significantly contribute to union leadership. In District 13 and beyond, Jose and the Vets of Steel program are pivotal in ensuring veterans receive the support and recognition they deserve, continuing a legacy of service and unity.

For more information on Vets of Steel, click here. 


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