As a Latina working at the AFL-CIO, I take particular interest in the impact Latinos have had on our nation and on our union movement. I am honored to join my colleagues, labor and community leaders today to celebrate the contributions of Latino working families in the United States.
From the start, Latinos have played an integral part in the labor movement. My grandfather did so, while working in the California fields for 35 years and organizing for more equitable wage standards and the right to form a union. He was part of the Brazero Movement, where the United States recruited Mexican workers to pick the California fields and work on the railroad.
Today, America is a richer and more vibrant country and our union movement is stronger because of the contributions of Latino working families. Latino Heritage Month offers a time to recognize the stories of the nearly 47 million Latinos living in the United States and to highlight the issues facing our working families.
My parents immigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, 26 years ago, in search of a better future. They left their families, country, culture, traditions, music and food behind in hope of finding educational and economic opportunities for the family they would build. Although the American journey presented countless barriers and challenges, 24 years later they were certain they had made the right choice when I became the first in my family to graduate from college. That is my story and it’s truly not only mine! It belongs to millions of other Latino families who have faced the same adversity, the same poverty and the same powerlessness in their countries of origin.
Although Latinos are some of the most vulnerable and lowest-paid working people in the nation, today we are seeing the renewed energy and inspired leadership of Latino working families fighting for their rights and for the middle class.
Tonight, the AFL-CIO is joined by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, Latino advocacy groups, unions, civil rights organizations, community groups and elected and appointed officials to celebrate Latino Heritage Month. It marks the first-ever Latino heritage celebration here and it’s an opportunity to reflect on the legacy and the history, the unity and the diversity of our labor movement and to recognize Latino working families in the United States.
Under the theme is “Siempre Unidos. Our Legacy, Our Future: Celebrating America’s Latino Working Families,” and this evening we celebrate our working families. We will highlight their hard-work, determination and courage.