Oral Histories

Interview of Rosa Beltran

Immigrant from El Salvador. Involved in the Service Employees International Union’s Justice for Janitors campaign.
Donde Haiga un Trabajador Explotado, Ahí Estaré Yo: Justice for Janitors' Workers, Organizers, and Allies
Social Movements
Labor Movement
Biographical Note:
Immigrant from El Salvador. Involved in the Service Employees International Union’s Justice for Janitors campaign.
Gomez, Andrew
Beltran, Rosa
Persons Present:
Beltran and Gomez.
Place Conducted:
Beltran's home in South Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Research relating to the interviews are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by, Andrew Gomez, a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s history department with a specialization in United States working-class history. Andrew Gomez prepared for the interview by reading Tom Waldman’s Not Much Left: The Fate of Liberalism in America, David Halle’s New York and Los Angeles: Politics, Society, and Culture: A Comparative View, Raphael Sonenshein’s Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles, Ruth Milkman’s L.A. story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement, Lydia Savage’s Justice for Janitors in Los Angeles and various archival articles from the Los Angeles Times.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Beltran was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
2 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series documents the Justice for Janitors movement in Los Angeles from the 1980s through the early 2000s. Justice for Janitors is a labor organization of the Service Employees International Union that has historically sought to improve the working conditions and bargaining power of workers in the janitorial services industry. The movement has taken various forms in different cities, with Los Angeles serving as the largest center of activity. By including interviews with labor organizers, politicians, and rank-and-file members, the series aims to offer a comprehensive picture of the Justice for Janitors movement in Los Angeles. In addition to documenting Justice for Janitors, the series also explores many of the participants' experiences in Central America before immigrating to the U.S. and interviewees' involvement in other facets of the labor movement in the U.S. and Central America. This project was generously supported by Arcadia funds.
Early memories of family and growing up in Santa Ana—Parents' separation and being raised by her mother—Growing up in a family that was not very religious but was very active politically—Mother’s work in local Santa Ana politics—Participation of entire family in political demonstrations—Experience of dropping out of school during the 9th grade and helping her mother work at the local market—Trips to Guatemala—Discussion of her close relationship with her brother Nelson and his radical political activity—Salvadoran Civil War: the terror over missing neighbors and the desaparecidos phenomenon, the formation of death lists, formation of guerrilla groups—Fear that brother was murdered during the Civil War—Mother forces Nelson to live in Costa Rica out of fear of political persecution—Decision to move to the United States in 1983 in light of El Salvador’s growing instability—Early experience in a garment factory—First job as a janitor and not realizing at the time that she was strike breaking union workers—Limited memory of unions in El Salvador and her participation in a local cooperative—Voting in El Salvador and the rampant voter fraud she witnessed in Santa Ana—Early memories of the United States while living in El Salvador.
First memories of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)—Moving from garment work to janitorial work in 1984—Recruitment of Latinos to be strikebreakers against the predominantly African-American workforce in the janitorial sector—The process of organizing new Latino workers—Early tangential association with the union—Experience of becoming an active union member by 1998—Memories of the Justice for Janitors 2000 strike—The importance of Triana Silton as an organizer—Importance of the 2012 contract negotiations—Latin American unity as essential to the major victories of Justice for Janitors—Contemporary labor issues such as the E-Verify program—The problem of members who are not active within the union—The importance of women to understanding the history of the Justice for Janitors movement—The 2000 strikes as the proudest moment in her activist history—Memories of the widespread community support for the 2000 demonstrations—Memories of the Staples Center strike—Thoughts on the future of the union and its intersection with immigration issues.