Dear Vecino, Let's Talk About Cesar Chavez

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On a roundtrip to San Diego this past Saturday, we drove and drove and drove from Highland to San Diego to Fontana. Along the way, we passed a large agricultural field where I glimpsed 8-10 men, dressed for working the field (large hats, long sleeves, bandannas tied around their neck) walking among the rows of soil and greenery.

During a luncheon hosted by the Chicano Latino Caucus, I heard Maria Elena Durazo speak of the man, Cesar Chavez and La Causa. She said to the brothers and sisters in the room that this discussion was not nostalgia in any way, for the call to action is as imperative now as it ever was.

I considered the men in the field, I thought of my friends in the Warehouse Workers who have fought and won lawsuits for stolen wages, unsafe conditions and more. Fans in the warehouse. Safe, drinking water available. I reflected upon my husband who has sat in a few anti-union training sessions over the past several years. And my niece, who, in less than a year, has been told that a union only wants her money. Her hard-earned minimum wage, part-time, money.

And, I wanted to remember something grand and powerful and imperative and I wanted to move and dance and start a revolution. After all, I was sitting in the only union-hotel in both San Bernardino and Riverside county. We just had a special election where Tea Party/Anti-Union Republicans turned out 2 to 1, aided in part by a split in our candidates and by the apathy of working people. It has been two decades of Central Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Stalnaker where cohesion and electoral effectiveness have been decimated. As a member of the Democratic Central Committee, and as the direct link to nearly a quarter million union members in our area, her leadership should have provided the groundwork for a progressive revolution. We should be a progressive leader for the country. We are not. And we have to ask why.

  • Why only ONE organized hotel in the region especially during the prime growth period of the area that saw the Ontario Convention Center, the Hilton Garden Inn in Fontana, massive hotel expansions in the Ontario Mills area?
  • Why NO active organizing drive that is receiving the full support of the members of the Central Labor Council? (how many rank and file union members know of the Warehouse Workers United community organizing program?)
  • Why no LIVING WAGE ORDINANCES, no PREVAILING WAGE ORDINANCES, no PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENTS in any of the cities or county areas of San Bernardino or Riverside Counties?
  • Where does California's (and the nation's) largest Central Labor Council (by geography) rank in terms of union voter registration, voter outreach, and election turnout on union issues?  Hint: The answer is last.
  • In the 2012 election year, the California Democratic Party received a combined $8,229,925 from public sector unions and general trade unions -- how much of that was from the Inland Empire? (Source: http://www.followthemoney.org/database/StateGlance/committee.phtml?c=11170)

Yes, it is time to bring some poetry and some vision.  

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