The idea of having a community that works dor all started due to the need to create an organization represented by and ran by Latinos, to make change happen and for social justice for this minority. After the rallies in Omaha, Nebraska, in favor of immigrants’ rights back in 2006, a group of packing plant workers hire Sergio Sosa for $3,000 a year, hoping to improve not only work conditions but also the community that their families and themselves had built.
Years later, the Heartland Workers Center (HWC) is born, with a mission to promote the development of leaders, labor rights, and civic participation, three main programs that would build an identity for this non-profit. Ten years later, the HWC has expanded its horizons, and what started with a focus on Latinos and immigrants now encompasses other minorities in need of social justice. Their offices on 24th St. in South Omaha are two floors high, and they also have a new office in North Omaha at the ENCAP building on Fowler Av. There’s also a downtown office in Nebraska City. The organization has also grown stronger in Schuyler, Grand Island, and Columbus.
But it’s not the infrastructure that makes the HWC special. It’s the community organizers that bring the organization to life. It’s the leaders, workers, fathers and mothers, community members, and young individuals from the many schools and universities who come together to organize and work together on the actions that will activate real and permanent change all over Nebraska.
This year, to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the HWC organized five political conventions in five different cities over five days. These conventions are for presenting to the community, and to their elected representatives at the local and state level, the power of what a community with organized leaders can accomplish – with the power to take actions. And when this is done collectible, taking acting stops being a patch that only covers social wounds, with a collective approach that can help to accomplish permanent changes with the collaboration of elected representatives.
This is something that was confirmed at the HWC political conventions, with the community represented by leaders that were openly communicating with their local representatives. For each of these conventions, community leaders presented to their families, friends, and elected officers with the main issues they’ve been working on as they prepare for the year 2020, which is set to be of the utmost importance.
A group of workers and members of the community in Nebraska City, like Matilda and Secundino, worked alongside HWC community organizer leader Abbie Kretz, in order to identify the local issues of the highest impact that didn’t seem to have a solution. Housing and voter turnout were some of the issues presented during the convention. During his speech at the November 6 political convention, Nebraska City Administrator Greyson Path said that communication between the community and the city’s officials was a must to build a bridge towards unity and progress in the city.
At the HWC’s Grand Island political convention, we find a diverse group of people from the community and of city officials. Grand Island Major Roger Steele handed to community organizer Raul Arcos a proclamation that dedicates the month of November to the HWC and its leaders for their dedication and great efforts for improving the relationship between the community and its representatives. Education, immigration, and Census support where some of the other issues presented by leaders.
The same thing happened at Schuyler. Mayor John Knutson issued a proclamation that dedicated the month of November to the HWC and its leaders. Among the topics discussed during the convention was the success of the campaign that promoted voting, which increased Latino participation and representation in many of the city’s public positions, as well as in public schools. Alejandrina Lanuza presented a special recognition, on behalf of the HWC, to Schuyler’s former mayor David Reinecke, for his support to leaders during his final term leading the city. Reinecke thanked everyone present for their support to help him become mayor, and for the support he receives as a former mayor.
The fourth political convention was held on November 9 in Columbus, Nebraska. Organizers Raul and Alejandrina, with the support of new community organizer Adilene Perez and of other community leaders, have managed to form a valuable team in a short time. Columbus Mayor James B. Bukley also issued a proclamation for the HWC.
The fifth political convention of the HWC took place on November 10 in Omaha, Nebraska. With over 300 participants, including community members, leaders, organizers, and city and state elected officers, it was a night full of awards, as well as of speeches on the issues that the leaders of North, South, and West Omaha have been working on.
On top of this, two new organizers have formed a based team of leaders in Sarpy County. At all of these events, the power of the collective as an agent for change was certainly showcased.
The members of Young Nebraskans in Action also shined with their speeches on immigration, voter turnout, and census. At the end of each convention, there was a call to action, a commitment to many of the issues that will be very important during 2020, a year full of opportunities for all of Nebraska. This commitment will turn into a strategy for the electoral year, with the participation of the community as a promoter of change.
Sergio Sosa, Executive Director for the Heartland Workers Center, stated that people don’t need to wait for change since they can join their community leaders and the HWC to be part of the solution.