Thank a worker this holiday season

As we reflect on the things we're grateful for this holiday season, let's not forget to give thanks to the immigrant working families who make our way of life possible. (Photo from the Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center.)

By Hector Guzman Lopez and Erika Galindo, Special to Equal Voice News

The end of the year is here once again, and in what has become tradition throughout the United States, family and friends will gather this month to enjoy pleasant moments, food, smiles and conversations.

Many people will engage in reflection, some deeper than others, on why they are thankful and what warrants their family's gratitude.

Health, family, a roof over one's head, jobs.

These are just some of the most common things people include in their list of blessings. Rarely does society focus on the contributions of different people in the population to our well being as something for which to give thanks.

We hope to highlight the contributions of working families, especially immigrant working families as a reason warranting our gratitude. Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center gives thanks to working families this holiday season and beyond by consistently supporting the transformation of our society to achieve more just and equitable communities.

We urge families to reflect and share on these endeavors.

The "Texas Miracle," a phenomenon many of our politicians are quick to make reference to when speaking of the Lone Star State, is in large part due to the construction industry with record amounts of projects in every major urban area of the state.

There are close to 1 million construction workers who have built the state of Texas -- and continue to do so. They labor in the most dangerous state to work in construction with the most deaths on the job than any other field in any other state.

Construction companies, contractors, subcontractors and society have another reason to be grateful this season. It is thanks to the construction workers that the industry has managed to grow at the pace it has, making an estimated $54 billion a year.

Without Texas construction workers, our state would not flourish near that rate. We should give thanks to the men and women who labor every day to build our state, from roads to schools. They work on government buildings, private businesses and homes.

In giving thanks to Texas construction workers, we should acknowledge that about half of them labor in our state without documents. In other words, without immigrant workers, our state would not have the growth that people see today.

Beyond the holidays, we should demonstrate our gratitude by supporting and prioritizing the transformation of the construction industry to make it one that is more accountable to working families, where there is proper safety training, adequate water and water breaks and to try to ensure that the rampant problem of wage theft is no longer embedded in construction work.

Texas worker centers, such as the Workers Defense Project and Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center will be pushing for new legislation this session to support working families and make the construction industry more accountable to workers.

Also, this month, many families will not cook their meals for the holidays. Rather, they will have domestic workers prepare their meals, clean their homes and help their children prepare for celebrations.

Numerous professionals depend on domestic workers to take care of their homes, cook their food and assist their children and parents in order to fulfill their own careers and enjoy their free time.

This season, let us give thanks to domestic workers who take care of homes and families and allow for vast sectors of society to work. Let us give thanks beyond this symbolic holiday and support domestic workers who struggle to end wage theft, sexual abuse, mistreatment, low wages and other rampant labor injustices.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has been instrumental in galvanizing workers' centers and community organizations that focus with domestic workers on these issues and have successfully supported the passage of Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights in California, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights widens labor rights under state law for domestic workers. Fuerza del Valle is committed to supporting this movement for economic justice.

As we lay out our holiday spread and eat our meals, let us also remember the men and women who harvest our food in the fields of America. Let us be conscious of the families who work hard to put food on our table and the supply chain that allows for this to happen.

Let us think of the millions of farmworkers, tens of thousands of whom are from the Rio Grande Valley which is a historical hub for migrant workers, who diligently harvest the fields. Let us think of the warehouse workers and the truck drivers who do their part in this supply chain, as well as the retail workers who work at Walmarts and supermarkets of America.

Let us think of all the workers who take part in getting food to our table. We should think of them and thank them for fulfilling such sacred work and for allowing us to nourish our bodies and support the health of our families.

Warehouse workers, retail workers and farmworkers are organizing across the country to fight poverty and exploitation in our supply chain. Let our gratitude extend from the holiday season and into concrete support for these historic campaigns by showing solidarity with working families.

This means attending their events, respecting picket lines and, most importantly, listening.

This holiday season, Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center recognizes and appreciate the contributions of all working families, documented and undocumented, to our society.

We encourage you to acknowledge them in your holiday dinners and celebrations and to give thanks to them on a day-to-day basis by supporting the movement for economic justice.

(Hector Guzman Lopez is an immigrant worker from Guanajuato who coordinates the Texas-based Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center and works for the Texas Civil Rights Project. Erika Galindo is a media advisor for Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center. She attended Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where she served as managing editor at Island Waves Student Newspaper. She edits the Fuerza del Valle newsletter.)