In 1987, California Assemblymember Bev Hansen and Assemblymember Sally Tanner started the Woman of the Year event after they realized the Legislature had no events planned for Women’s History Month. Since then, a woman from each Senate and Assembly district is chosen and honored for the contributions she has made to the state.
This Women’s History Month, Teamsters 856’s own, Malia Vella was chosen by Assemblymember Rob Bonta as Woman of the Year for Assembly District 18.
“I was surprised,” said Malia. “I think there are a lot of really incredible women especially in District 18, so it was humbling.”
Malia is Local 856’s public policy coordinator, as well as a representative and legal counsel. In addition to providing strong representation for Teamster members in both the public and private sectors, Malia is also a member of the Alameda City Council where she serves as vice mayor. She also teaches Ethical Policy Making and Introduction to Policy and Economic Analysis at Mills College.
Since being elected in 2016, Malia has successfully worked with the city council to make Alameda a sanctuary city, fund affordable housing, provide protections for renters, close a deal to provide 2,500 local hire construction jobs, and more.
“During her tenure in office, she has worked diligently to address the concerns and needs of the people of Alameda and to improve the quality of life of future generations,” wrote Assemblymember Bonta in his letter to the California Legislature explaining why he chose to honor Malia.
Malia learned she was going to receive the Woman of the Year honor on the same day her family was told her mother would need chemotherapy for breast cancer.
“We’d decided to go out for a nice meal with my mom in Napa, so I was in the car with my parents when I got the call,” said Malia. “In a week full of bad news, it was really nice to share that moment with them.”
On the day of the ceremony, Malia was joined at the Capitol by her sister, her father, and Local 856 Secretary-Treasurer/Principal Officer Peter Finn. “We are proud Malia was chosen for this well-deserved honor,” said Peter. “Not only does she work hard each day to help our members build power in their workplaces, but she is also deeply committed to her community.”