One hundred immigrant women are walking 100 miles to welcome Pope Francis and remind the whole world of the importance of immigrant work, and working people in the labor movement will join them. On Saturday, Sept. 19, Neidi Dominguez, director of Worker Centers and assistant director for Community Change at the AFL-CIO, and María Elena Durazo, vice president of Immigration, Civil Rights and Diversity at UNITE HERE, will join these courageous women to speak out against immigrant families being separated as a result of the broken immigration system in the United States. The labor movement is proud to join the women in their fight against wage theft, gender discrimination and sexual harassment on the job. As we await the historic arrival of Pope Francis, we join activists from across the country to give him a warm welcome and uplift the voices of the immigrant women who help make this country better every day.
As immigrant women themselves, both Neidi and María Elena know first-hand that these 100 women and so many others like them help run this country, too often at the expense of their own lives, making them some of the most courageous workers we know.
Dominguez is an immigrant youth and workers' rights activist. Read why she was inspired to join the 100 Women, 100 Miles pilgrimage below:
My mother worked cleaning offices during the day and delivering newspapers at night to support her family. For seven years, she slept an average of three hours a day to ensure a better future for her children and somehow still found time to organize working people. She taught my sister and I to believe in dignity, justice and respect for all. It is my own experiences within the immigrant rights and labor movement that have led me to witness the best of humanity; to meet women from all walks of life and from different industries and sectors who stand up to their bosses, even when all odds were against them. These have been women of faith and resilience. Women like the cafeteria workers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who shut down the campus when the university wouldn’t respond to their demands. Or the carwasheras in Los Angeles who endured harassment not only from their bosses but many times from their own co-workers and still never backed down from a picket line. Undocumented women all over the country are fighting to keep their families together, and I am proud to stand in solidarity with them.
María Elena Durazo
Durazo is a labor leader who has spent decades fighting for immigrant rights. Read her story below:
I grew up working in the fields as one of nine kids in a migrant farm worker family. My parents and older sisters came from Mexico. Each year, I attended different schools and missed several months of class, depending on the crop we were picking. My mother worked long hours in the fields and also got up earlier than the rest of the family to make breakfast and tortillas for our lunches. After working a long day, she came home and made dinner. Many times my family could not afford to rent a place to live; so we lived out of our flatbed truck or parked near a river and squatted until we got caught. From my youth I knew and believed that my family deserved more. César Chávez and Dolores Huerta inspired me to understand how a union could change our lives. So I became a union organizer and, later, president of UNITE HERE in Los Angeles. I found strength and inspiration in the thousands of hotel housekeepers, the majority of them being women, migrant and African American. They are the ones who have gone on strike, blocked streets and risked arrest for their right to collectively bargain for safe working conditions, for good wages to raise their families and humane room cleaning quotas. They demand dignity.