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Public Employee Press
Union celebrates dreamers
By ALFREDO ALVARADO
Flores, the recording secretary of Local 1549, announced the theme for the month, "No Dreamers Left Behind." Dreamers are the million-plus young immigrants brought to the United States as minors who have graduated high school or served in the military here and are fighting for the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to make them eligible for lawful permanent residence and to improve their opportunities for work and college.
SSEU Local 371 held its Latino Heritage event on Sept. 12 with a packed house at DC 37 headquarters.
The local's celebration included a memorial tribute to their late Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Nazario. Local President Anthony Wells and Vice President and Latino Committee Chair Yolanda Pumarejo presented Nazario's family with a commemorative plaque for his more than 25 years of service as a union activist, officer and staffer. Miriam Ortiz, Julia Jorge and Isabel Santos read a poem in his memory.
"The Sheriff," as Nazario was affectionately known, began his career as a union delegate at Metropolitan Hospital and served as a chapter chair and a DC 37 field rep. "He was a great friend who I miss a lot," Santos said.
The keynote speaker was José La Luz, the AFSCME organizer and educator who led the island-wide effort to win collective bargaining rights for public service workers in Puerto Rico. La Luz honored the members of Local 371 who participated in the 1995 organizing drive in Puerto Rico that helped establish Servidores Públicos Unidos, AFSCME Local 95. Activists from DC 37 and Local 371 were part of that historic campaign among Puerto Rican public sector workers.
"Local 371 stood up when they were needed and that is why there is an SPU in Puerto Rico today," La Luz said.
But the right to organize and bargain is in danger nationwide, La Luz warned, and he emphasized the importance of labor staying vigilante and ready to fight against those who would take away workers' right to bargain collectively.
The celebration closed with a performance by Fary Henriquez and his roots-driven Dominican band and singer Frankie Negron that had the members dancing for the rest of the evening to his salsa beat.