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La Liga de Las Americas

Latino workers round up their resources to face rough economic trend

At a time when economic trends and policies unravel in a way that will impact Michigan as the principal host of the Auto industry, community initiatives are developing a proactive stance to help circumvent the adverse effects on workers and their families.

“Its time to round up the wagons” says Rudy Reyes, coordinator for the Latina/o Workers Leadership Institute (LWLI).

“We are being hit in many fronts as Workers, Union members and Latina/os,” Reyes said, speaking of the opportunity to reflect and act on an assortment of current issues through training and tactical initiatives for Latina/o workers.

LWLI is a labor education program sponsored by the Labor Studies Center, a component of The University of Michigan’s Industrial Labor Relations Institute.

A one-weekend conference scheduled has been designed by rank and file union members to address sensitive issues faced by Latina/o workers.

We need to come together as a community of unionists and a family of Latina/os,” added Julie Alavardo-Zuzga, co-coordinator for 1006 LWLI.  “We have a number of –in-house- resources that can help us emerge from the pressing job and economic crisis.”

LWLI, scheduled for April 6-9, 2006 in the Eagle-Crest Marriott Hotel in Ypsilanti, will include a set of workshops and speakers that will delineate the tactics and resources Reyes and Alvarado-Zuzga discuss.

One of these critical issues is the health and retirement benefits being debated by the auto industry and the United Auto Workers.  This issue threatens salaried workers and retirees as U.S. automakers press for the equivalent of a wage cut for its union workers and take-backs from its retirees.

Roy Rodríguez and Anna Montalvo, both presidents of UAW and AFCSME locals respectively, will facilitate Re/Building our Unions: Activism from the Bottom Up, a workshop to enhance member participation in their labor organizations’ activities in a way that empowers both workers and Unions.

With the increase of Latina/os participating in the electoral process, voting may be only a part of the solution.

“Voting for the right candidate becomes an added concern,” says Paul Vásquez, a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator. “In many cases, our own sisters and brothers become a liability against our interests by voting for politicians that care more for their lobbyists than their constituents.”

Vásquez is the Southwest Regional Coordinator for the AFL-CIO and is a native of Flint, Michigan. He is based in San Antonio, Texas and currently leads a voter education campaign. Vásquez will be facilitating the workshop My Vote, My Job; Electoral Politics and Unemployment along with Henry Sánchez, chair of the Michigan Latino Democratic Caucus and active member of the Communications Workers of America Union (CWA).

The 2006 Latina/o Workers Leadership Institute conference theme is Latinos Unidos Will Never be Defeated, “which is a direct reflection of our historical past and points to our strength as a Latina/o community, which has never succumbed to victimization,” according to Dr. Jerry García, History professor at Michigan State University, who will teach the workshop La Onda Latina: Pride in Our Culture.

“This session will focus on the Latino community’s rich history of confronting adversity creatively by pulling together as  workers, families and communities, that draw strength from our culture and traditions as we create new responses to today’s challenges,” continued co-facilitator Ana Luisa Cardona, who serves as Arts Education Specialist for the Michigan Department of Education.

While macro-politics in the capitol’s corporations and union halls carve the fate that many workers will face, the Latina/o Workers Leadership Institute will open a forum in which solutions to potential problems can be discussed to form a safety net that uses the social capital of the “barrios,” according to Julio César Guerrero, one of the promoters.

For more information on the Latina/o Workers Leadership Institute please call Julio César Guerrero at 734-764-0493 or log on to www.ilir.umich.edu/lsc/Index.cfm





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