A big thank you to all of you who attended, sponsored and participated in our Faith Labor Breakfast on May 4.
It was a wonderful event where your support, solidarity and love were very palpable!
Thank you to Christ Presbyterian Church for donating their beautiful space for the event, and to all our faith, community and union partners for their participation (with a special shoutout to OPEIU Local 39 CUNA Mutual Group employees as they prepare for a potential Unfair Labor Practice strike!). Thank you to Pastor Ken Pennings, Prof. John Leonard, and Rabbi Bonnie Margulis for their prayers, Steve McDonald for running the raffle, Julio Garcia for doing the interpretation from English to Spanish, Chanell Biami for her updates on the Starbucks campaign, and to our lovely volunteers for their help with registration, food distribution, bracelet sales, setup and setdown, and everything else it took to run this successful event. It was also wonderful to have Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Alder Tag Evers, and Rep. Francesca Hong at the breakfast!
I want to extend a very special thanks to our main speakers, Cecilia Rodriguez, Juana Montes and Franco De Costa, who shared their powerful testimonies and demonstrated what it means to speak with courage and vision, not only for themselves, but for all workers who strive for justice.
Cecilia ended her talk by stating, “We are all equal. We are in a free country and we must exercise our rights. We are human beings, not animals.” I cringe at the thought that she even had to say this. After all, isn’t it obvious that every human being deserves to be treated with full dignity and respect?
Yet, both Cecilia’s and Juana’s testimony indicate that all too often immigrant workers are treated as less than. Juana talked about the terrible working conditions and intimidation she experienced at the hands of several bosses, but also about how she decided to organize her co-workers at Crushin’ It Apparel when they faced extremely hot and unsafe working conditions a year ago, and how, when they led a picket in front of their workplace, they were astonished at the support of unions, hotel workers, painters, carpenters, students, pastors and their families, all who marched right beside them. She ended her powerful talk with the following statement: “I used to say nothing because I was afraid to lose my job and not have enough money. But now I have courage and I want to make sure that other people don’t have to experience what we went through. I ask that you support us so that we, your immigrant brothers and sisters, don’t feel alone and have the courage to fight for our rights.”
Then Franco, an experienced union leader in Uruguay, talked about his astonishment at the lack of decent systems of work in the United States, which as he said, is supposed to be a first-world country. He talked about how solidarity is our duty and ended by saying: “If you see injustice, go to the streets! Small union, big union, or no union—we must all defend one another! That is how we achieve justice!”
Truly there is nothing more to say. As workers organize, may we all stand together, with one voice, demanding justice.
Executive Director, Worker Justice Wisconsin