Jose LaLuz

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Jose LaLuz


Jose LaLuz is Executive Director of Servidores Publicos Unidos de Puerto Rico/AFSCME (United Public Employees of Puerto Rico).

He is currently associate director of the leadership academy of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and a vice chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. La Luz is credited as the architect of a grassroots campaign that resulted in a 1998 law granting bargaining rights and the right of unionization to 120,000 public employees in Puerto Rico, and in 2011 led a successful campaign to restore those rights after the Republican governor Rico Luis Fortuñopassed fiscal austerity legislation that had nullified the law.[1]

Background

A native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, La Luz comes from a working-class family and spent his primary school years on the island. La Luz’s grandfather used to take him to the tobacco, coffee and sugarcane fields, where he saw first hand the plight of poor Puerto Ricans toiling in the fields for a meager livelihood and malnourished children with swollen bellies living in unhygienic shacks with no running water or electricity. The fight for basic rights and justice for all people became his life’s passion.

His role models were his grandfather, who worked in a New Deal program: the Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration; two progressive governors of Puerto Rico: Luis Munoz Marin and Rexford Guy Tugwell; and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[2]

Education

La Luz graduated from the State University of New York’s Empire State College with a B.A. in labor studies and earned a M.A. in labor studies at Rutgers University.

He has been a visiting labor leader in residence at Cornell University and a Wurf Fellow in the Kennedy School State and Local Government Program at Harvard University, and received a lifetime award as an outstanding labor educator from the United Association for Labor Education.[3]

Political activism

During his college years, La Luz joined Students for a Democratic Society and local Puerto Rican farm workers’ organizations in the Tobacco Valley in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He also worked with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers of America and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, which later expelled him for being a “social democrat” instead of primarily nationalist.

He eventually became active in Democratic Party politics while he launched his labor organizing career, which included serving as international director of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union during the 1990s and playing a prominent role in the debates over NAFTA, advocating for strong labor rights and environmental protection.

As staff of AFSCME, in 2008 he was “on loan” to Hillary Clinton’s primary election campaign and later trained Hispanic activists in the Obama presidential campaign.

PSP/socialism

In the early 1970s Jose LaLuz was active in the Connecticut branch of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party with Eric Vega. Allied to Castro's Cuba, the Marxist-Leninist PSP agitated for Puerto Rican independence and committed several bombings and other terrorist acts on U.S. soil.

LaLuz was expelled from the PSP in 1976 and went on to to join the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee the following year. He became Chairman of the Hispanic Commission of DSOC, before the merger with the New American Movement that created Democratic Socialists of America in 1982.[4]

Hard Times Conference

In 1976 Jose LaLuz for Puerto Rican Socialist Party Central Committee attended the Weather Underground and Prairie Fire Organizing Committee organized Hard Times Conference Jan 30 - Feb 1 at the University of Chicago.[5]

Democratic Agenda

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

Workshops included "Organizing Hispanics" - Jose LaLuz, moderator, Pancho Medrano, Gilbert Padilla.[6]

Democratic Socialists of America Anti-Racism Commission

In 1982 the Democratic Socialists of America Anti-Racism Commission/Hispanic Commission, was co-chaired by:[7]

DSA Racial Diversity Task Force

In 1992 Jose LaLuz was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America Racial Diversity Task Force - charged with finding ways of recruiting (and retaining) more "people of color" into the organization[8].

DSA Latino Commission

In 1992 the Democratic Socialists of America Latino Commission was led by;[9]

DSA Latin American leaders meeting

On April 17, 1993 Democratic Socialists of America hosted a reception for an "extremely distinguished delegation of democratic socialist leaders from Latin America". The guests, all of whom would be running for president of their respective countries within the next year, included Ruben Zamora of El Salvador, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of Mexico, Antonio Navarro Wolff of Colombia, and Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva (Lula) of Brazil.

ACTWU President Jack Sheinkman, DSA NPC member Jose LaLuz and reception host Gene Eisner, participated.[10]

Labor activism

in 2000, Jose LaLuz was the Executive Director of Servidores Publicos Unidos de Puerto Rico/AFSCME (United Public Employees of Puerto Rico).  He had been on assignment in Puerto Rico since 1995, coordinating AFSCME efforts to achieve collective bargaining rights and to organize more than 150,000 public service workers as part of a multiunion coordinated organizing project which includes SEIU, UAW, AFT, UFCW, AFGE among other unions in the AFL-CIO.

Socialist activism

Jose LaLuz[11]had been a democratic socialist long before he joined the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) in 1977, when he became the Chair of the Hispanic Commission of DSOC, before the merger with the New American Movement that created DSA. 

He previously had been a leader of the U.S. Branch of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and was responsible for organizational and trade union activities before he was expelled for being a "social democrat".

Peace Council

In the late 1980s LaLuz was active Communist Party USA initiated and dominated U.S. Peace Council-an affiliate of the Soviet front World Peace Council.

Socialist International

The Democratic Socialists of America delegation to the 1992 Socialist International conference in Berlin, included Bogdan Denitch, (chair), Christine Riddiough, (VP Socialist International Women), Motl Zelmanowicz, Jose LaLuz, Michael Lighty, Jo-Ann Mort and Penny Schantz.[12]

CrossRoads

In the mid 1990s LaLuz was[13]a contributing editor to Oakland based Institute for Social and Economic Studies- sponsor of CrossRoads magazine, which sought to promote dialogue and building new alliances among progressives and leftists... and to bring diverse Marxist and socialist traditions to bear while exploring new strategies and directions for the progressive political movements.

Committees of Correspondence

At the Committees of Correspondence conference, Berkeley California, July 17-19, 1992. LaLuz was a candidate[14]for the CoC National Coordinating Committee-from New York, DSA Latino Comm. ACTWU Ed Director.

Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s

The Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s was the Committees of Correspondence's first national conference held in Berkeley, California July 17-19, 1992.[15]

Plenary speakers were ;[16]

2008 YDS event

On the heels of a strong Young Democratic Socialists turnout at DSA’s 2007 national convention, its winter outreach conference’s success represents another stepping stone for a revived YDS. The conference title, “Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible: Reviving Democratic, Socialist, and Youth Activism,” honored the spirit of the young radicals of 1968 and reflected similar hopes and dreams that continue to motivate young activists forty years later.

On Friday evening February 15, 2008, the conference opened with a panel discussion: “2013 Isn’t Soon Enough: The Anti-War Movement Post-Bush.” The gathering of close to one hundred young activists served both as conference opener and an Iraq Moratorium event. YDS has participated in numerous Iraq Moratorium events (monthly actions to raise awareness against the war in Iraq) since September and the panel showcased our grassroots work on a national stage. [17]

In the closing plenary on Saturday, Temple University political theory professor and DSA Vice- Chair Joseph Schwartz, prominent socialist-feminist theorist Nancy Fraser, and veteran trade union leader and DSA Vice Chair Jose LaLuz addressed the continued importance and relevance of democratic socialist values to building mass social movements for racial, economic, and gender justice.[18]

Latinos for Obama

In 2008 Jose LaLuz was the chairman of Latinos for Obama and campaiged in Colorado and New Mexico registering, educating and mobilizing voters until Election Day. He was also the director of the Leadership Academy with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

According to the Communist Party USA's Peoples Weekly World September 19 2008;

Latino Voters Key to Obama Win in Battleground States
The historic Nov. 4th presidential election is less than two months away, and a monumental battle is heating up in a few crucial swing states, as some nine million Latino voters prepare to cast their ballot, which could be the deciding factor for an Obama win.
Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. at 15 percent of the population and represent nine percent of eligible voters. But many agree the Latino vote could be the key bloc that could lead to an Obama victory, especially in battleground states where Latinos make up at least 10 percent of the voting population...
Latino voters represent 35 percent of the electorate in New Mexico, 11 percent in Colorado, 12 percent in Nevada and 14 percent in Florida. According to the poll Obama is expected to win the majority of Latino voters in California, which is the state with the largest Latino population...
In New Mexico, Obama leads McCain 56 percent to 23 percent among Latino voters. Among non-Latino voters McCain leads 50 percent to 34 percent.
In Colorado, Obama has a 56 percent lead over McCain’s 26 percent among Latinos. And among non-Latino voters Obama has a narrow 45 percent lead over McCain’s 41 percent.
In Nevada, Obama leads McCain at 62 percent to 20 percent among Latinos. Yet McCain leads among non-Latino voters at 46 percent to 37 percent.
Jose LaLuz is the chairperson for Latinos for Obama and is campaigning in Colorado and New Mexico registering, educating and mobilizing voters until Election Day. He is also the director of the Leadership Academy with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union.
LaLuz spoke with the Peoples Weekly World during an AFL-CIO labour forum at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
“Well over 60 percent of Latino voters are supporting Obama – closer to 66 percent now, ...The right wing is pulling all its dirty tricks even in the Latino community. We all realize that Bush used appeals to ‘family values,’ religion and the sanctity of marriage, etc. to get white workers and Reagan Democrats to back him last time...Well they are using the same stuff, the same tactics in the Latino communities. When you combine this with their attention on swing states we find they are waging an especially big push against Obama in the Mexican and Chicano communities in Colorado and New Mexico...”

LaLuz explained his tactics to the Peoples Weekly World;

"The Obama campaign is working in both New Mexico and Colorado, among other states, telling Latino voters about McCain’s terrible stands on the economy and about the horrible role Republicans have played and continue to play on immigration... “We are showing how the companies and outfits that exploit Latino workers are the people behind McCain,”
Between now and Election Day LaLuz said that the Obama campaign is registering voters in New Mexico and Colorado and developing lists of tens of thousands of Latino supporters for Obama.
“Those lists will constitute the people we bring out on Election Day.”

The Peoples Weekly World went on to say;

President Bush won 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, a key factor in his win. Even though John Kerry lost Ohio then, many Democrats feel if Kerry had won Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, he would be president today. Things have changed since then and the margin of victory is in the Latino vote, particularly in these states, respectively, Democrats say. Polls across the country concur and find that Latinos are fed up with the Bush administration and the Republican Party represented by McCain and see Obama as the person to change course for the better.

Center for Labor Renewal

In 2009 Jose LaLuz was listed as an endorser of the Center for Labor Renewal[19].

DSA vice-chair

Democratic Socialists of America Vice-Chairs in 2009 were;

Elaine Bernard, Edward Clark, Jose LaLuz, Steve Max, Harold Meyerson, Maxine Phillips, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Joseph Schwartz, Ruth Spitz, Motl Zelmanowicz[20].

New Labor Forum

New Labor Forum is published by Center for Labor, Community, and Policy Studies, Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education & Labor Studies.

Editorial Board members listed, as of March 2013; were;[21] Elaine Bernard, Ron Blackwell, Barbara Bowen, Kate Bronfenbrenner, Arthur Cheliotes, Mike Davis, Amy Dean, Steve Early, Hector Figueroa, Janice Fine, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Marie Gottschalk, Gerald Hudson, Lisa Jordan, Tom Juravich, Robin D G Kelley, Jose LaLuz, Nelson Lichtenstein, Manning Marable, Ruth Needleman, Ai-jen Poo, Katie Quan, Adolph Reed, Daisy Rooks, Andrew Ross, Kent Wong.

References

  1. {http://www.dsa-atlanta.org/pdf_docs/DD%202012%20Web.pdf, Douglass-Debs Dinner 2012 brochure, page 5]
  2. {http://www.dsa-atlanta.org/pdf_docs/DD%202012%20Web.pdf, Douglass-Debs Dinner 2012 brochure, page 5]
  3. {http://www.dsa-atlanta.org/pdf_docs/DD%202012%20Web.pdf, Douglass-Debs Dinner 2012 brochure, page 5]
  4. Dem. left, Fall 2000
  5. Outlaws in Amerika, West Goals 1982, Pg33-35
  6. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 370/371
  7. DSA Keylist newsletter, July 1982
  8. Memorandum, Steve Tarzynski-May 26, 1992
  9. Democratic Left, November/December 1992, page 18
  10. Dem.Left, May/June 1993, page 14.
  11. http://www.dsausa.org/dl/fall2k.pdf
  12. Democratic Left, November/December 1992, page 12
  13. Crossroads March 1996
  14. CoC official ballot paper
  15. Conference program
  16. Proceedings of the Committees of Correspondence Conference: Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the '90s booklet, printed by CoC in NY, Sept. 1992 (Price: $4)
  17. Dem. left Spring 2008
  18. Dem. left Spring 2008
  19. http://www.centerforlaborrenewal.org/?P=EN
  20. http://www.dsausa.org/about/structure.html
  21. NLF website, accessed March 6,2013