Biography of Jose Gilberto Soto|
1954 - 2004
Teamsters Headline News
JOSE GILBERTO SOTO was born on November 6, 1954 in Usulutan, El Salvador. Gilberto was devoted to his family and leaves his children (Blanca, Rosalva, and Edson), his wife (Alva "Maritza"), his mother (Blanca Rivas), his siblings (Henry, Julio, Francisco, Yolanda, Araly and Mayra), and his extended family of port drivers and Teamsters.
In 1975, Gilberto came to the U.S. from El Salvador, where he had been working as a bank teller. In New Jersey, he worked as a trash collector, waiter, cook, factory worker, general maintenance, and landscaper until he settled at CEFCO, an electrical fuse manufacturer, in North Bergen, NJ. It was at CEFCO that Gilberto first joined the Teamsters and served as a union shop steward until 1985. In April of 1985, Gilberto was appointed as a Business Representative for Local 11 and in this capacity he developed his organizing skills and recruited new members into the Local. Gilberto quickly rose through the ranks and became President of Local 11 in 1993, the first Latino president of a Teamsters local union in New Jersey. At the same time, Gilberto was committed to fulfilling his life dream of obtaining a college degree. He attended Hudson County Community College and then transferred to Kean University, where he received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science in May of 1994.
After attaining his degree, Gilberto continued organizing workers with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees from 1994-2000, and then served as a Business Agent for Teamsters Local 723 until he was hired by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as Port Division Representative for the New York-New Jersey and New England regions.
Gilberto was an ardent supporter of the FMLN and the New York chapter of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.
In early 2004, Governor James E. McGreevey appointed Gilberto to the New Jersey Clean Air Council and to the New Jersey Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
In addition to Gilberto's union activities, Gilberto organized and managed El Sirpo soccer team. He also convinced Hudson County to build a soccer field in North Bergen's Hudson Park. Gilberto was a founder of CEUS, an organization that sends financial aid and computers to El Salvador. Gilberto also wrote poetry, played the guitar, and was an elegant salsa dancer.
On October 30, 2004, Gilberto traveled to Central America to meet with port truck drivers and labor officials in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras to better understand working conditions for port drivers there and to create a solidarity network between Teamsters and their Central American counterparts. Gilberto was assassinated Friday evening, November 5, at 6:00 p.m., outside of his mother's house in the city of Usulutan, El Salvador. Witnesses say he was shot in the back by three men, who waited outside his house and fled in a getaway car. He died immediately.