Oral Histories

Interview of Aida Barragan

Involved in the Service Employees International Union’s Justice for Janitors campaign.
Series:
Donde Haiga un Trabajador Explotado, Ahí Estaré Yo: Justice for Janitors' Workers, Organizers, and Allies
Topic:
Social Movements
Labor Movement
Interviewer:
Gomez, Andrew
Interviewee:
Barragan, Aida
Persons Present:
Barragan and Gomez.
Place Conducted:
Union Hall SEIU-USWW 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 & 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 interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Barragan was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
Length:
1 hr.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Series Statement:
This series documents the Justice for Janitors movement in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the present day. 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 a working-class family in Culver City—Memories of her parents and Culver City—Attending Washington Elementary—Catholic upbringing and a largely apolitical family—Culver City High School and early forays into activism—Latinos and college admissions—College plans and her time at Santa Monica College—Santa Monica College’s diversity and her activism on campus—Chicano Studies at UCLA—First impressions of UCLA—Initial interest in immigration law—Being influenced by the Labor and Workplace Studies at UCLA and the labor movement—Her experience participating in the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Relations’ Union Summer—Working with Jovita Ramirez—Working as an organizer with the Service Employees International Union—Intimidation of being an organizer at a young age—The problem of burning out in organizing—The process of being mentored by Triana Silton—Importance of female rank-and-file members—The process of identifying leaders in the work place—Planning for the 2000 strike—Teaching workers the details of how the janitorial services industry works—Difference in organizing in Los Angeles as compared to the San Fernando Valley—Build up to the 2000 marches—Major demonstrations during the 2000 strike—The battle over health care during the strike—Strategy during the strike and public coverage of the marches—Winding down the strike and reaching an agreement—Idea behind the Building Skills Partnership in 2003 and her initial steps in its formation—The process of business owners taking the initiative in the BSP—Creating an ESL program and turning BSP into a statewide non-profit—Overview of programs offered by the BSP in its current form—The relationship between BSP and the SEIU
Growing up in a working-class family in Culver City—Memories of her parents and Culver City—Attending Washington Elementary—Catholic upbringing and a largely apolitical family—Culver City High School and early forays into activism—Latinos and college admissions—College plans and her time at Santa Monica College—Santa Monica College’s diversity and her activism on campus—Chicano Studies at UCLA—First impressions of UCLA—Initial interest in immigration law—Being influenced by the Labor and Workplace Studies at UCLA and the labor movement—Her experience participating in the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Relations’ Union Summer—Working with Jovita Ramirez—Working as an organizer with the Service Employees International Union—Intimidation of being an organizer at a young age—The problem of burning out in organizing—The process of being mentored by Triana Silton—Importance of female rank-and-file members—The process of identifying leaders in the work place—Planning for the 2000 strike—Teaching workers the details of how the janitorial services industry works—Difference in organizing in Los Angeles as compared to the San Fernando Valley—Build up to the 2000 marches—Major demonstrations during the 2000 strike—The battle over health care during the strike—Strategy during the strike and public coverage of the marches—Winding down the strike and reaching an agreement—Idea behind the Building Skills Partnership in 2003 and her initial steps in its formation—The process of business owners taking the initiative in the BSP—Creating an ESL program and turning BSP into a statewide non-profit—Overview of programs offered by the BSP in its current form—The relationship between BSP and the SEIU