This week was the 25th anniversary of Justice for Janitors Day. Communities nationwide are celebrating this moment all week through candle light vigils, marches, and by sharing their personal stories.
Read Lalo's journey, from an activist among his colleagues to an activist for his whole community and immigration reform."
Eduardo "Lalo" Garcia worked two jobs just to make ends meet. He was a gardener in the morning, putting in a full eight-hour day, and then would go to his second job in the evenings as a janitor.
It was not until 2001, when he and his coworkers organized together and formed a union - securing full time hours with benefits - that Lalo was able to leave his daytime job and focus just on his work as a janitor.
Through this experience, Lalo learned how to fight for the issues that were important to him and his community. "I have learned to encourage other people," Lalo reflects. "Because as an immigrant, I know you don't have to be afraid."
He became a leader in his community, fighting for immigration reform and against companies that want to implement harmful programs like E-Verify.
"Many people think, 'I don't have any documents. I can't do anything,'" he stated. "But on the contrary, we left our countries because of bad politics, and from a bad government where we had no jobs. So to come here... and do nothing? Well we can't go from one border to another looking for dignity and respect."
As 5 million immigrants stand to benefit from executive action by President Obama under the DACA and DAPA programs, it's now more important than ever to leaders like Lalo that more people are participating in the conversation and fighting for permanent solutions like immigration reform.
To Lalo, raising America means elevating each one of our voices. It means holding corporations accountable for making billions at the expense of exploited working families. It means raising standards so that every mother, father, and friend can raise a family, save for retirement, and thrive, not merely survive.
- Eduardo "Lalo" Garcia is originally from the state of Morelos, Mexico, and immigrated to the U.S. in 2000. He lives in Santa Ana, California and works as a janitor with SEIU-USWW.