NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Graduation was emotional for the dozen members of SEIU 32 BJ at the completion of the Social Justice Academy organized by their union and held at the New Haven Peoples Center.
The security guards and building cleaners set aside one Saturday each month to learn how to become stronger leaders in their workplaces. They discussed the causes and solutions to economic and racial inequality, the Fight for $15, immigrant rights, and the elections.
One worker said the sessions changed her life and gave her a renewed commitment to her union. Another called on all the participants to share their knowledge among their co-workers and develop many new leaders for workers’ rights.
A major theme was that all workers have a common concerns and needs, regardless of country of origin or background.
Member Juan Aparicio prepared his remarks. An excerpt follows:
“Behind every social struggle, there are visionary people organizing, leading and seeking strategies to achieve better objectives in favor of the workers and their community. A long time ago the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr said:
‘I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.’ (Mount Vernon, Iowa, Oct. 15, 1962)
“Today following his teaching I say:
“Dear brother Martin Luther King, in our SEIU 32 BJ, we are fighting to get rid of that hatred and that fear among us. Yes, my brother Dr. Martin Luther King, in our union we can communicate with each other and we are not separated from each other anymore because we know that together we are stronger.
“Today, when this seminar is done, the soul of the Reverend Martin Luther King and the souls of many other social activists are with us. Their legacy strengthens our spirits and raises our consciousness to higher levels in order to continue our fight for our community. They showed us the path that we have to follow and we will achieve their legacy.”