On Saturday LUPE had our member convention, a chance for members from all parts of Hidalgo County to meet, share their stories, and make commitments to work together on 6 key issues: immigration reform, health care, safe communities, education, jobs, and housing.
The convention began with the customary prayer of the farmworker in the struggle, written by our founder Cesar Chavez, asking for strength and guidance in our fight for justice. And while our struggle is long and hard, another great American leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., taught us that the arc of history bends towards justice.
And working toward justice is what today’s convention was all about. In meetings and mini-conventions throughout January and February, LUPE members met to prioritize their top issues, learn more about LUPE and the United Farm Workers’ past victories, and share their own victories. At Saturday’s convention, members chose which of the 6 issues they will commit themselves to and joined working groups to tackle them.
Colonia residents have a powerful voice in advocating for change. And when they hear their fellow colonia residents raising their voice, they are moved to act. The convention was an opportunity for members to raise their voices and share their testimonials on why each issue is important to them.
Health care was one of the top priorities of LUPE members, with many participants coming to the front of the union hall to give their testimonials. Lilia Barrientos shared with the group about the time when her son got a tooth ache, but when she took him to see a dentist at a community clinic she was told that he needed to have had three previous visits in order for him to be able to see the dentist. She asked herself, “Why does he have to have gotten sick three times, and get really bad before he can receive the medical care he needs?”
Immigration reform came out as the top priority of LUPE members. The convention adds to the momentum built by the Texas Can do Better March and Rally, which took place Tuesday at the State Capitol. The Equal Voice Network of the RGV, of which LUPE is a member organization, and Common Sense Immigration Reform RGV Consortium brought almost 400 Valley residents to the march and rally.
Jorge Lopez, member of the Brown Berets and participant in the march and rally, gave his testimonial during the convention. “I join with LUPE, with Cesar Chavez’s union, and with the students, with all my heart. And with my boots to march. And with my arms to dig a big whole and bury all these anti-immigrant laws. Ya Basta! Enough is enough!”
Jerry and Reyna presented on employment and job training. Jerry was a victim of wage theft, but working with LUPE, he was able to pressure his employer to pay his wages without having to take him to court. Now his boss is paying him little by little the money he is owed.
Such victories are possible when members raise their voices and make the commitment to work hard and work together. “The Union depends on the members,” said Organizing Coordinator Martha Sanchez to the room full of LUPE leaders. “The Union is alive, like a plant, and you have to cultivate it all year. If the members don’t cultivate it, it doesn’t grow, it doesn’t go on living.”
Through forming working groups around their various issues members are cultivating this union. And through working together in those groups, members will make the plant grow long branches, reaching out toward the change they need in the colonias. Si se puede!