Good jobs and unions were the topic on April 10 in Kreider Hall when Maria Elena Durazo spoke of Hollywood to the Docks, a three-day 28-mile march that supported the fight for good jobs.
Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer for the L.A. County Federation of Labor, spoke from noon to 1 p.m. about the April 15 through 17 march that supported more than 350,000 union workers that will be negotiating their contracts with their companies in the fight to keep decent wages and benefits in the upcoming year.
“We want good jobs.everyone has the right to good jobs,” said Durazo.
Durazo, daughter of Mexican immigrants, remembered working in the farm fields since she was in high school when workers didn’t have health benefits and worked 12 to 14 hour days.
“It was very humiliating,” said Durazo as she spoke about what it was like to work in
the fields without toilets.
Durazo now represents 350,000 workers from 30 unions, people who will be fighting to keep the jobs, benefits, and wages they have now.
“Unions and labor movement make sure that there is a high standard of living,” said Durazo.
“It’s important that when students graduate that there are good jobs, that if they want to they can buy a home, have kids if they choose, go on vacations, and have a good retirement,” said Durazo.
“Bad jobs lead to poverty and poverty leads to gangs and violence.”
“There is always a threat, no matter what the occupation, to the standard unless there is a collective fight from workers to make sure that there is a high standard. If there isn’t a push back, I guarantee you, the standards would go down fast,” said Durazo.
Community college faculty, janitors, hotel workers, teachers, actors, radio personnel, camera personnel, dishwashers, truck drivers, cashiers, longshore workers, and others are represented by unions that make sure that there are good jobs.
Durazo said that United Way did a study that showed 40 percent of workers in L.A. County don’t make enough to meet minimal basic living needs.
“Young people are having to stay at home and live with their parents longer because of the amount of money that it takes to survive these days,” said Durazo.
There are thousands of workers who are looking to unite in order to have better working conditions and benefits.
“Right now there are 15,000 truck drivers in the port of L.A. and Long Beach who have been classified as independent contractors in order to stop them from collectively organizing and demanding more for the work that they do,” said Durazo.
The drivers don’t have health insurance and worker’s compensation, “nothing applies,” said Durazo as they work 12 to 14 hours a day, picking up loads and moving 40 percent of products in this country that come from elsewhere in the world and are moved through the L.A. and Long Beach ports to distribution centers or are taken directly to the stores for an average of $25,000 a year.
As Durazo speaks about the march, she also remembers the contribution that Cesar Chavez made by devoting his life to forming the United Farm Workers (UFW).
“Had it not been for Cesar Chavez, I don’t know if I would have been motivated to do what I do today. He said yes we can do it, and it opened my eyes to a new world,” said Durazo who admitted looking up to Chavez.
“A few years ago, grocery stores went on strike to hold on to health care,” said Durazo.
Supermarket parent companies were willing to loose over $500 million in order to change workers standards of living.
“The grocery workers are now starting at $9 to $10 an hour which is $5 to $6 an hour less than before the strike and “there is enough profits for supermarkets.That should have never have happened,” said Durazo.
“Behind all jobs that you all seek to have. there are men and women that who are fighting hard every single day to have a good standard of living,” said Durazo.
Some of those men and women marched from Hollywood to the docks.
“No human being who works hard every single day should be deprived of what it takes to have a good standard of living,” said Durazo.