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Chairman's Message

As Chairman of the Latino Caucus, my principal goal is to transform the Caucus into an organization of activism that supports the growth and goals of our International Union.

At my day job, I have the honor of serving the 4,200 men and women of Local 78 – Asbestos, Lead and Hazardous Waste Laborers in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island, 90% of whom are immigrants. Like thousands of the workers that LIUNA represents, and millions that we do not, I was not born in this country. Each new immigrant has his or her own personal story of struggle and triumph. Mine only differs from others’ in the details. When I was nineteen years old, I came over from the Dominican Republic with $11 in my pocket and just a few words of English in my vocabulary, but with an intense desire for a better future. In the early 1990s, I began working in asbestos abatement. The industry was entirely made up of immigrants, and was virtually 100% non-union. The work was dangerous and difficult. The treatment inhumane. Contractors routinely put our health and our lungs in peril, violating the regulations that were supposed to protect us, in order to get the job done quicker and cheaper. We tolerated it because we had no other option. We had rent to pay and children to feed. Like most non-union immigrant workers, I knew that something better was possible. In 1996, when LIUNA began organizing asbestos workers, I signed up immediately. That year, 1,500 immigrant asbestos workers in New York City got their first union book. The Union gave us decent pay, a safe workplace, and most importantly, dignity on the job.

Latinos make up a large portion of the workers in the industries that LIUNA represents. Some are LIUNA members, yet most still toil under deplorable conditions like the ones described above. As Latinos and as workers, we are all united by the path that we (or our immediate ancestors) chose. A path that led us from the life we knew in our home countries to a new and unfamiliar world. A path that we followed in search of a better future for ourselves and our families. And once here, a path that we travel each day in search of dignity at work. It is the same path that has led workers to this country, and then into the Laborers International Union of North America, for over a century, whether the journey began in Italy, Ireland, Latin America, or elsewhere. Our origins are varied. Our goal is the same.

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