The first time I heard the word “labor”, I heard it from my father.
In his broken English.
Enveloped on his Spanish accent.
Surrounded by Spanish words.
It was the only English word in his sentence.
I had never heard it before, I was a kid.
And I asked him what it was.
The first person to define the English word “labor” was an immigrant from Mexico who received amnesty from Reagan, who worked the fields, who went from state to state harvesting whatever was in season at that time, who was still learning English, who only knew work done in the sweltering heat, who knew how to measure and play with numbers as he was hoisted on the 30th floor of a building he was working on downtown, who never received a formal education past 6th grade, who knew what a mortgage was but didn’t know what the mortgage crisis was, who loved to build things with his hands, who taught me to pick the perfect watermelon at the store, who taught me how a house’s foundation should be, who taught me to write a check but didn’t know what a 401k was then, who always made me stand outside in the sun with him to help him lift the roof as he was re-tiling it, who fell from a building and broke his back, who was disabled as he recovered, who made me crawl through the small spaces in order to place the electrical wire properly, who was the husband of a woman who worked the extra night shifts at Target so that she could care for him and us during the day.
That person defined what labor meant to me.
And that person set the foundation of my beliefs on labor and working class, just as he set the foundation of so many buildings in downtown Atlanta. He still points them out as we drive on through I-75.
Written by Susana Duran, a workers’ compensation legal assistant pursuing a B.S. in Economics at Georgia State University.
Susana works her way through school in order to afford the out of pocket tuition. Obtaining a degree, not only for sake of her interests and knowledge, is a symbol that vindicates the struggles her parents suffered in trying to achieve the American Dream. This burden to make their efforts not be in vain rests on the shoulders of many first-generation Americans.
Her interests include the intersections of law and economics, specifically labor rights and economics, placing a stop to workplace labor violations and exploitative work; and fighting for the inclusion of historically and currently marginalized voices in the issues of affordable housing, racial and economic justice.
Susana is a founding member and current Chair of the Latinx Caucus of the Young Democrats of Georgia; a Board Member of an up and coming North Georgia Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (501(c) 3 pending status); a legal worker-member of the National Lawyers Guild; and a student organizer/sympathizer of various social and political justice organizations in the Metro Atlanta region. Susana plans to go to law school to specialize in employment law, with the focus on workers’ rights and supporting the workers’ pursuit to a democratic workplace.
If you would like to become involved with or are interested in, any of the above-mentioned organizations, feel free to contact Susana.
You can find Susana on LinkedIn