Spirit of Unity at Teamsters Hispanic Convention
More than 200 Teamster delegates assembled this morning in downtown Los Angeles to convene the opening plenary session of the Teamsters National Hispanic Caucus.
Gathered for the Caucus’s 2012 Convention, Hispanic Caucus Executive Director, International Trustee and Local 396 President Ron Herrera called the convention to order and VFW Honor Guard Post 2967 members in uniform opened the program with a presentation of colors.
“We must reverse the trend of attacks on workers over the last few years,” said George Miranda, Hispanic Caucus President, International Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 210. “We need to focus on winning strong contracts and organizing workers, and we need to focus on Hispanic workers, too.”
He added that the job of Teamsters everywhere is to show corporate America that despite their efforts to defeat workers, Teamsters will not be divided because they are organized and strong.
Miranda also talked about the high stakes for workers in this election year.
“It’s our job to register Latinos to get out and vote because if Mitt Romney becomes president, right-to-work for less will be the law of the land,” Miranda said.
Other speakers at the convention on Friday included Rome Aloise, International Vice President At-Large and Joint Council 7 President, in addition to Joint Council 42 President Randy Cammack who implored everyone to get out the vote. Cammack highlighted the battles in California against Proposition 32 and other anti-union measures being pushed by anti-worker politicians.
The keynote speaker of the day was Jose Hernandez, a former astronaut who is currently running for Congress in California’s 10th District. Hernandez spoke about his upbringing as a child in Southern California picking cucumbers. He became a member of Local 601 when he began working at a cannery in Stockton, Calif. while he went to college.
“It was the best paying job I ever had and it helped me pay for college,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s unlikely journey from migrant farmer to astronaut to politician amazed Teamsters in the audience, but he said it will take struggle to make the American dream as accessible to others as it was for him.
“We need to fight in Congress to protect collective bargaining and create jobs so we can say to our kids that the sky’s not the limit, space is.” Hernandez is already being outspent by his Republic opponent and said it will take a grassroots campaign to win.
Antonio Christian, Executive Director of the Teamsters National Black Caucus, underscored the theme of the convention.
“The union brings us all together—brown, black and white. We are one family,” he said.
This spirit of unity was echoed by the pro-Teamster president of the Los Angeles City Council, Herb Wesson, and Local 601 leader Maria Ashley Alvarez, the first female Hispanic Secretary-Treasurer in the union.
Delegates were also addressed via video by General President Jim Hoffa and Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall who celebrated the diversity of the Teamsters and the union’s leadership in fighting back against the war on workers.
“As you know, there is a war being waged on workers and Teamsters are leading the charge to fight back for workers everywhere,” Hoffa said.
“Latino members have helped make this union a leader in fighting for immigration and trade policies that benefit workers here in the U.S. and in Latin America,” Hall said.
This afternoon a series of educational workshops will be held for delegates to discuss coalition-building and developing alliances among immigrant and environmental advocates.
As the convention progresses, Teamster delegates are excited about the information and ideas they can bring back to their locals.
“The war on workers is real and a convention like this is about teaching our members to fight back for our families,” said Hector Ramirez, a shop steward at Waste Management for Local 396.
“We need to stand together, organize and fight,” said Freddy Aguilar of Local 886 in Oklahoma City. “It’s important to bring this message back to the rank and file in our locals.”
Tomorrow, delegates will hear from speakers including Al Mixon, President of the TNBC, along with United Farm Workers co-founder and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.