August 30 Luisa Moreno Born

August 30, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1907.

That was the day labor leader Luisa Moreno was born in Guatemala City. 

As a young woman, she fought for the admission of women into Guatemalan universities. 

After attending journalism school in Mexico City, Luisa moved to New York with her husband and worked as a seamstress. 

Outraged by low pay, racial discrimination and poor working conditions, she led organizing efforts on the job.

During the Depression she worked as a full-time union organizer, first with the AFL organizing black and Latina cigar rollers in Florida. 

But she also became active with the Communist Party and joined CIO efforts to organize cannery workers. 

Luisa led unionizing efforts of pecan shelling women workers in San Antonio, Texas and then of cannery workers in Los Angeles. 

In 1938, Luisa helped organize the Spanish-speaking Peoples Congress. 

During World War II, she fought against discrimination in hiring of Mexicans in oil and war-related industries. 

In the 1940s she became centrally involved in high profile legal defense cases of Mexican-American youth prosecuted on frame-up charges. 

These included work around the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon case and then of victims of the Zoot Suit riots a year later. 

She continued union work in California, helping to organize and represent walnut pickers. 

By 1950 she was caught in the cross hairs of the McCarthy-era witch-hunts. 

Luisa was targeted by Operation Wetback, and offered citizenship status in return for testimony against radical labor leader, Harry Bridges. 

When she refused, she faced deportation on the accusation that she had once been a member of the Communist Party. 

She returned to Guatemala and continued organizing workers throughout Central America. 

Luisa Moreno died in Guatemala in 1992.

 

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