MILWAUKEE — Along the walls of Milwaukee’s United Community Center, a new exhibit highlights the farm worker labor movement in Wisconsin, full of photographs, paintings and posters that share the story of the thousands of Latinos who fought for equal rights during the 1960s and 1970s.
Scattered among the treasures is one man’s name, Jesus Salas.
The founder of Obreros Unidos, the United Workers, in Wisconsin, Salas’ influence is unmistakable, with his roots paving the way for his future in activism.
“I’m a third-generation migrant worker. My father came here in the 1940s as a migrant worker. We started joining the migrant stream in the 50s and for the next 10 years or so as a migrant worker,” said Salas.
Combing through the archives, Salas shares where the strength of the movement came from, familias unidas.
“One of the unique parts of the Wisconsin farmworkers movement was that the workforce was family based. That's what you see in the images here. Families out in the field. When I worked with all the migrant workers; my mother, my father, all my brothers and I spent all day in the fields and that was the working conditions at the time that I began to organize,” said Salas.
As the nation honors the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, the noted civil rights activist and leader, Salas says his message lives on, as new generations carry on the charge.
“We can have success if we organize families, we can have success if we build a sustainable community and that's why he'll be an enduring figure for the rest of our generation and generations to come,” said Salas.