Oral Histories: Union Leaders Gather Against 187 | Link TV
Oral Histories: Union Leaders Gather Against 187
As part of "187:The Rise of the Latino Vote," we're publishing the oral histories of some of the movement's pivotal players and the people whose lives it affected. Every week, new interviews will be added, adding to this rich archive.
They're organizers, educators and mobilizers. Union leaders are called on to fulfill a number of roles on behalf of the workers in their organization. As Proposition 187 loomed on the horizon, union leaders gathered their respective organizations and united against a ballot that threatened their constituents and their communities. Learn more about the union leaders that helped gather a critical mass against Proposition 187.
Gil Cedillo was better known for many years as the man who pursued a bill that seemed impossible to achieve: driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
But his crusade for immigrants started many years before when he was the President of Local 660 of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU). Listen to his full interview.
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Maria Elena Durazo
From the fields of California as a child with her farmworker parents to leadership in the transformation of the union movement and now, a seat in the California Senate, Maria Elena Durazo has been at the forefront of major issues in the state.
She was born the seventh child in a family of eleven children to migrant workers. Growing up, she traveled with her family, following the crops throughout California and Oregon, an experience that marked her and set the stage for who she was to become. Listen to her full interview.
Joel Ochoa is a political refugee from Mexico who arrived in the United States at the end of 1973. By the time Proposition 187 came around, he was a seasoned union organizer.
That's probably why he didn't buy the argument some democratic politicians and consultants made to him and others, that to fight the anti-immigrant initiative, immigrants had to keep a low profile, not participate in big marches and not anger the so-called “Encino Voter." Listen to his full interview.
On the day of the march against Prop 187 in Los Angeles, Cristina Vazquez was on stage, getting ready to introduce some of the labor leaders that attended the event and expecting at most about 5,000 people to show up.
On that Sunday, October 16, 1994, Vazquez saw tens of thousands of people, many immigrant workers, and their families, walking in the streets of downtown Los Angeles coming from the east. Many had handmade signs demanding respect from governor Pete Wilson, who was pushing Proposition 187 to take away education and health care from undocumented immigrants. Listen to her full interview.
Growing up in what was then called South Central L.A. in a single-parent home fueled Annetta Wells' desire to fight for her family and the people in her community.
Her fighting spirit started early on and continues to this day, now that she's the deputy political director for the largest labor local in California, SEIU 2015, representing over 400,000 long-term care workers up and down the state of California. Listen to her full interview.
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Top Image: A young Gil Cedillo at the head of a table discussing plans for an anti-Prop 187 march | Still from "187"
Today, a cadre of local activists and artists in Watts are using storytelling and human relationships to promote change, justice, equality and communal values.
In such a controversial campaign as Proposition 187, art and politics inenvitably mix. During the 1990s a number of politicians (established and aspiring) helped shape the campaign, as artists on the ground informed the public and inspired them to act.
From performing with an ensemble to working at the Smithsonian to mentoring Watts youth (including a young Nipsey Hussle), WTAC's advocate has done it all and keeps fighting for her adopted neighborhood.
“We get it all the time — people come up to us and say, ‘We didn't know that Black people live in Santa Monica,” Carolyne Edwards said. “And there was a huge population there.”
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