Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Guest Blogger Series: Hector E. Sanchez “One Nation March: Important for Latinos”

Tomorrow, October 2, thousands of people will gather at the Lincoln Memorial to participate in a march to call for One Nation Working Together— marching for good jobs, for justice, for immigration reform and for education for all.  Progressives from around the nation will come together with labor, human and civil rights organizations, youth and student groups, the religious community and peace and environmental groups.  One Nation Working Together will show the nation what a sustainable and wise economic vision looks like.

Latinos must join and embolden this march.  As fear and hate becomes the response to the economic crisis for a sector of the population, we can come together to show that we are better than those scare tactics. Yes, we can change the tone of the debate by focusing on the right values and a good economic strategy that is good for all workers in the nation.

This demonstration is a unique opportunity for the Latino community to raise our voice and concerns. Unfortunately, immigrants have become the scapegoat for many Americans’ resentment, especially as the economy has grown more tenuous. But the reality is that migration is a complex global phenomenon closely tied to economic policies. Powerful businesses have established a hungry deregulated system that is voracious in its demand for cheap, exploitable labor.  Working Latino families understand the negative effects of such policies.

Right now with so many Latinos living between worlds, it is no exaggeration to say that the Latino, but particularly the immigrant, community is under attack on many different levels.  Not only have we suffered the drastic increase in hate crimes and racism against our community, but we also have the highest risk of death and injury at work, the highest percentage of wage theft and the lowest access to health care, just to mention some of the most serious concerns that we have.

Marches create political consciousness, but they are also a celebration of strength and unity. Standing side by side with people from all races and identities, this is a unique opportunity for all of us to find renewed strength in the struggle for equality. It is because of mobilizations like this one that we were able to get the quality of life that we have today — yet that may be taken for granted.  It’s no accident that many workers today have a standard 40-hour work week; safe working regulations; minimum wage; the power of collective bargaining; health protections; pensions and retirement; training; and overall, a better environment to speak up for themselves and their families.  The mighty corporations of the past didn’t hand over these rights out of the kindness of their hearts.  No, they fought the labor movement, violently, to oppose any such benefits to the working poor who were dependent on them for an income.  Yet, it’s those protections that led to the expansion of the American Middle Class.  And a solid middle class is one of the main characteristics of a developed nation.

This march is also crucial to show the frustration of the community and to put more pressure on Congress and the administration to push for policies that make sense politically, economically and socially for all.  The sensitive issue of immigration reform is one of these policies, and it must be re-framed in common-sense economic terms. Evidence shows that normalizing the status of undocumented migrants is good for economic recovery because it would create income gains for workers and households. Reform would allow immigrants to have higher productivity and create more openings for Americans in higher skilled occupations. It would increase wages and spending, all of which generates more tax revenue.  We can’t allow a minority of uninformed people to warp the discussion because, simply, the numbers don’t lie: reform is a prudent formula during this economic crisis and it can benefit all workers.

Marching for key issues is also a way to fight political apathy and this is a crucial moment in advance of the elections on November 2nd.   Think not only about the civil rights movement of the 60s, but about 10 million Latinos who motivated and voted in 2008.  Politicians and pollsters noticed.  This year is no different: the Hispanic vote is playing a central role in a number of key swing states.

This is the time to rally. This is a great opportunity for the Latino community to join this march to take back our nation’s agenda and demand jobs, justice and education for all Americans, extend protections of civil and human rights to all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, and fix our broken immigration system.

Latinos must struggle against not just growing personal manifestations of discrimination, but also against the institutions and systems that perpetuate social and economic inequality. This march is an opportunity to demonstrate that what is good for Latinos is central to the nation’s future and that our robust community is not a voiceless one. As we mobilize on Saturday, let’s also march to the polls in November to assert our political power and demonstrate our commitment to an agenda of shared prosperity for all workers.

Hector E. Sanchez is the executive director of The  Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). He has worked in education and non-profit organizations, and has over 10 years of policy, advocacy research and community outreach experience.

The above article was featured in the Huffington Post.