Join us for this month’s Labor Forward Forum. The forum is a free, online series held on the third Wednesday of the month from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. Each month, a School for Workers faculty member will interview advocates of the labor/worker movement to highlight their important work, celebrate their progress, and learn from their unique experiences.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at noon we are welcoming labor activist Jesús Salas. This event is free, but pre-registration is required to receive the webinar link.
About Jesús Salas
Jesús Salas is a celebrated changemaker who has dedicated his life to farmworker justice. Salas and his family first migrated to Wisconsin in the early 1940s during a time of increased migration to the area during and after World War II.
Increased demand for food and a simultaneous shortage of labor during the war created a demand for agricultural workers. Government programs permitted employers to hire foreign laborers and Texas Borderland migrants to work in the fields, and between 1942 and 1964, millions of Mexican workers came to the state and helped transform Wisconsin into the agricultural powerhouse it is today.
Salas and his brothers were seasonal migrants for 10 years before relocating to Wautoma, Wisconsin in 1959. Although he was just a child when he moved to the state, the third-generation migrant worker quickly grew into a leader in the growing movement for farmworker justice. In 1966 at age 22, Salas co-founded Oberos Unidos (United Workers). Under his leadership, the group organized migrant farm workers to march from Wautoma to Madison to raise awareness of the impoverished conditions in which laborers lived and worked.
Salas and Oberos Unidos went on to organize numerous protests and boycotts, gaining the endorsement of César Chávez and helping to improve conditions for migrant workers throughout Wisconsin. In 1969 Salas became the first Latino CEO of United Migrant Opportunity Services, a non-profit advocacy organization which provides programs and services to improve the employment, education, health, and housing opportunities of under-served populations.
Salas was also a teacher, and he taught bilingual skills at Milwaukee Area Technical College for two decades. He was a lecturer at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee before being appointed to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. Salas continues to be a changemaker and an advocate for immigrant and migrant civil rights.
Article from Wisconsin Historical Society