Worker Justice

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Interview with Apolonio “Polo” Duran

 Apolonio “Polo” Duran comes to the WJW board from the Regional Council of Carpenters/Carpinteros Latinos Unidos. Here, Polo speaks about his experiences as a worker, union rep, and board member.

Polo’s parents were agricultural workers as he was growing up, and Polo and his brother often chipped in on weekends and holidays. This experience shaped his opinions and trajectory greatly–Polo says he feels good being able to represent people like his parents. Polo stated that he appreciates the work WJW does, and that the board allows him to connect with workers, organizers, and other individuals in the community who are knowledgeable and passionate about ending wage theft.

He also mentions the legacy of Act 10 and the way it still hurts the labor movement today. “I think a lot of people have opened their eyes and realized that without representation, they’re getting nothing. I think some didn’t realize it at first. They thought ‘Now I don’t have to pay my dues anymore’ because they didn’t appreciate what reps and unions do for us.” Polo feels that after years after the passage of Walker’s infamous legislation, workers are realizing what organizing can provide for them. ‘It’s a process, not a one-time thing…it’s a long process, and a lot of hard work, but we get [workers] wins every year,” referring to raises and other wins that workers have advocated for.

“I work for the people: the people that need help and don’t have a voice. After all, that’s what my parents went through.”

When asked about how others can support workers and Worker Justice Wisconsin, Polo was quick to emphasize the importance of publicity. “A lot of people don’t know the extent of wage theft. They don’t even know it happens…Folks see these buildings go up in town, but they don’t know what they’re relying on for manpower. Some people get paid low wages and don’t get paid for weeks, and it’s usually within the Latino community.” Polo feels that public displays of solidarity, like the one WJW hosted with the Regional Council of Carpenters in July, are essential to raising awareness on the issue of wage theft.

Polo appreciates the work WJW does for this reason. He feels another way to prevent abuse and wage theft in the workplace is through the education WJW does: teaching workers that they’re entitled to many rights regardless of their immigration status. “People don’t realize what rights they have,” he said. “Otherwise, employers will just take advantage when there’s an opportunity.” Through training, worker actions, and collective organizing, WJW addresses these points and ensures that workers have the tools they need to advocate for themselves at work. “I appreciate the work [WJW does] and being a part of it.”

Polo joined the board of WJW in February of this year.