Voices from the WalMarch Feature: Cynthia Chavez, Student ActivistPosted on September 20th, 2012
Cynthia, currently a student at the University of California, Riverside, is actively involved in student organizations on campus such as el Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).
When ask about why she thought it was important to participate in the march, she responded:
“As students we need to support the workers. It’s not fair; warehouse workers are not being respected. They don’t even have access to basic human needs, like water. As students, whenever people who are oppressed stand up for themselves, we need to stand in solidarity with them. It is important for students and other people to get involved.”
She first learned about the working conditions of the warehouse workers and the pilgrimage at a USAS meeting. As a student at UC Riverside, a university in the Inland Empire located not too far away from the many warehouses where the warehouse workers are employed, she felt a sense of obligation to help bring justice to the workers.
“At the meeting, we were pumped up. We contacted some students. And we marched the whole 50 miles. I can’t even express my feelings. At first, when I talked to workers they were telling me about the working conditions. They are being exploited. When they touch containers, it’s really hot, and they can burn themselves. They also have many accidents at work because they are working with broken equipment.”
Cynthia calls Southern California her home:
“East Los Angeles is my community. As we were walking through East Los Angeles, I was starting to tear up. It was then, that I knew I was at the right place, at the right time. I also felt sad because I was the only student marching, but now I know it is my job to bring this back to campus.”
Last summer, Cynthia had an internship in Nicaragua where she worked with employees at an Adidas factory.
“In Nicaragua, I learned how women have miscarriages at the workplace. How workers get death threats for organizing. And then I come here, back to the US, and I hear about warehouse workers being exploited. Workers are being exploited everywhere by corporations like Walmart. How can this be happening in the US? I am here today, supporting the warehouse workers and I will be here until the end of the fight.”
Cynthia is studying political science, international relations, and labor studies. After graduation from college, she hopes to continue helping organize workers alongside the labor movement.