Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 by celebrating the wonderfully diverse histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. September 15 is significant because it is the Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
With over 26 million workers, Latinos currently make up over 17 percent of the total U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are projected to be more than 20 percent of the workforce by 2026. Yet, according to a report from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Latinos are often affected by substandard working conditions. Latinos make up the largest number of workplace deaths and injuries. Perhaps in response, there has been a steady increase in the number of Latinos joining labor unions, according to the statistics reported by LCLAA. Currently, 9.3 percent of Latino workers are in unions.
As the IAM celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, it is important to continue the fight for worker and family rights championed by Latino labor leaders throughout our history, such as Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, Luisa Moreno, and Jessie De La Cruz.
The leadership of the IAM takes great pride in our history of fighting for a diversified workforce and standing up for justice for the Hispanic community, and is proud to have many members of Hispanic heritage fighting for working people’s rights. Paving the way are our Hispanic Executive Council members: International President Robert Martinez, Jr., General Secretary-Treasurer Dora Cervantes, Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen and Transportation General Vice President Sito Pantoja.
IP Martinez is the first Hispanic ever elected to the IAM Executive Council and the first Latino in the history of labor to head a major North American international union. GST Cervantes also broke through barriers as the first Hispanic General Secretary-Treasurer in the IAM.
All four of these Latino IAM leaders have been in the trenches fighting for worker and family rights for many years. Thanks to their efforts, the IAM has successfully organized numerous largely Hispanic workforces, including the American Racing Wheel campaign, which was considered a first of its kind in immigrant organizing in the Los Angeles Area, and the recent affiliation of the Puerto Rico Carpenters’ Union.
The IAM’s Executive Council leadership has mentored many Hispanic leaders in the union and implemented important programs like the Spanish Leadership program at the Winpisinger Center which provides vital training programs in Spanish. Each of these efforts helped to secure the economic stability of good union jobs for working Latino families while building the strength of the IAM.
The IAM’s Executive Council also works with many Hispanic rights groups that advance the issues of justice and equality among the Hispanic population. This includes the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the leading national organization for Latino workers and their families. The IAM proudly has four members on the LCLAA Executive Board, including International President Martinez, GST Cervantes, GVP Allen and Political Director Rick De la Fuente. Through the efforts of strong IAM representation within LCLAA, the organization has expanded its influence and currently represents more than 2 million unionized Latino workers.
As a union member, you, too, can help advance the fight for equality and dignity for our Latino brothers and sisters. Machinists have always stood up and fought for all workers’ rights. Given the projected increase of Hispanic workers in the coming years, our continued support for organizations like LCLAA is more vital than ever. Empower working families, strengthen solidarity in the union, and defend the civil and economic rights of all workers. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, join LCLAA today!
Another simple step to pay tribute to the great contributions Hispanic workers have made to the United States is to make sure every member and everyone you know fills out the Census.
The Constitution of the United States requires that a complete count of “every person” in the United States is made every 10 years. The current administration has suggested that it will not count persons it considers to be illegal immigrants. Moreover, they have indicated that they are going to cut short their efforts to count everyone by a full month. Both of these efforts will have a disproportionate negative impact on Hispanic communities.
The Census is used to determine how much funding communities will receive, the amount of resources that will be provided to area schools, whether infrastructure repairs will be made in particular areas, where to place health care services and how many government representatives a state will have. If people are not counted, those communities will be underfunded and underrepresented which leads to greater risk of poverty, hunger, and poor health. If you have not already, go to www.my2020Census.gov to take the Census today. The results are confidential and are not shared with government authorities.