Oral Histories

Interview of Victoria Marquez

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
Marquez, Victoria
Persons Present:
Marquez and Gomez.
Place Conducted:
SEIU-USWW Local 1877 Union Hall in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview 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. 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. Marquez 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.
Growing up in San Miguel and memories of her parents—Moving to San Salvador at the age of 7 with her mother and siblings—Detailing her relationship with Juan, her brother, and also the youngest of her seven siblings—Casual relationship between the family and the Catholic Church—Dropping out of school during the 4th grade to help her mother—Memories of being attracted to the student protest movement in San Salvador when she was 14 years old—Attending marches in San Salvador as a teenager and the military repression that followed—Recalls how several of her brothers died during the Salvadoran Civil War—Her marriage at the age of 17 and continued involvement in the student movement—Seeing Oscar Romero in San Salvador—The death of her brother Juan in Apopa—Her sister Paula's move to the United States and leaving her kids with Victoria—Attending training sessions taught by Joaquin Villalobos—As the Civil War escalates, her growing fears of her children being abducted or her husband being killed—Persistent fear in San Salvador and the custom of always carrying a white object to signify an unarmed civilian—Her vivid memories of the 1989 final offensive in San Salvador, the chaos that ensued for four days, and her efforts to keep her children safe as the city was bombarded—Remembers the use of indiscriminate killing in the final stages of the war—The torture and murder of her cousin—International intervention following the final offensive—The Salvadoran economy after the war and her decision that either she or her husband needed to move to the United States.
Making the decision to move to the United States—Getting to Los Angeles and her initial impressions of the city—Living in Van Nuys with her niece—Early jobs watching children and working in a beauty salon—Becoming a janitor in Santa Monica—Unfair firings in her building and the fear of organizing—Treatment of unions in Central America—Her attraction to labor conflicts and the beginning of her association with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)—The struggles of being away from her family—Her time as shop steward and her brief memories of the Cesar Oliva controversy—Difficulties of organizing some workers in her building—Memories of the 2000 general strike and the years of preparation—Ruminating on her obligations during the strike to herself and her family—Involvement in her own building during the 2000 strike and her efforts to draw other workers out of their buildings—The grueling nature of a prolonged strike and the difficulties the workers faced—UPS and other parts of the community that showed solidarity during the strike—The nature of the 2000 strike and the fight for a family insurance plan—Serving as a contract negotiator during the strike process—The last several years of her time at the union and becoming a full-time organizer—The immigration movement and its importance to the labor movement—Participating in the national debate for immigration reform by going to Sacramento and Washington D.C. to argue for a path to citizenship—Hopes for the future of the immigrant rights movement.