From UFCW Blog–Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated between September 15 and October 15, recognizing independence from Spain for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico.  In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson instituted this celebration in recognition of the growing Latino population.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the UFCW will be sending out weekly e-mails on key issues concerning Latinos and unions in the U.S.  This week, we explore the common goals and values of Latinos and unions.

Latinos workers are young (their median age is 27.7 years old) and have a strong participation in the workforce (68%), but they are also strongly affected by unemployment (13.2%) and poverty (25.3%).  Becoming union members is a critical step for Latino workers in achieving the American Dream. Compared to other workers, the “Union Difference” is most significant for Latino workers.  When Latino workers in the 15 lowest wage occupations join a union, their wages increase by 17 percent, they are 41 percent more likely to have insurance, and 18 percent more likely to have pensions.  This strengthens communities and the economy.

The UFCW is proud to be a national leading voice for civil and human rights.  We continue a long and rich legacy of standing up for immigrant rights on the job – a tradition we carry on today, thanks in part to the efforts of organizers and leaders like Emilio Emeterio “Red” Gomez.  Mr. Gomez passed away on April 16, 2011, after a long career, first as a meat cutter and later as an organizer with the UFCW.  He was a founder of the United Latinos of the UFCW, becoming its president in 2001. He supported political candidates who supported workers, and served all members equally, regardless of race, ethnic background, sex, or religion.

Working people, their unions, and the growing U.S. Latino community face strong challenges from a weak economy and hostile social and political movements.  In spite of the poverty and low wages Latinos experience, they remain optimistic.  A recent surveyfound that Latinos believe their children will have a better standard of living, and are optimistic about the future of the country, which is what the union movement is about.  To that we say, “Sí se puede!”