Honoring the Struggle for Freedom: Labor Leaders Shine at 3rd Annual Labor Seder


JESPA Executive Director Vicki Flores was honored as a Champion of the Labor Movement at the third annual Coloradans for the Common Good Labor Seder last week.  Also honored was Joe Goldhammer, a labor attorney with a long history of advocating for the working class.

The Passover Seder commemorates the biblical story of the Israelite’s struggle to free themselves from slavery under Pharaoh’s harsh rule in agent Egypt.  In keeping with the Exodus story of liberation, the Interfaith Labor Seder weaves in the stories of organized laborers’ struggles and celebrations. This night was an opportunity to take a step back from our work to appreciate and recommit to the struggle and to connect with religious leaders, leaders of the labor movement, policymakers, and the greater community. During the labor Seder participants recognized that there are people in our midst who struggle every day for dignity, freedom, and power both within workplaces and throughout their entire lives.

JESPA leader Andrea Cisneros shared her story of struggle to find food while she was growing up. She found support from caring school lunch ladies. When she had children of her own, she become a school food service worker so she could be a mom to her children.  She was determined to provide nutritious meals for her students. Despite facing push back from a school district favoring processed foods, Andrea stood firm, advocating for healthier options. Now facing threats of termination for her advocacy, she remains resolute: “I will continue fighting for every child’s right to healthy meals, no matter the cost.”

Flores was honored during this event for her “passion for strategic organizing and building power [which] continues to drive innovation, fostering a collaborative and fearless spirit among JESPA members as they champion the schools their students truly deserve.”  In her 19 years with the labor movement, the last 4 years advocating for Jeffco ESPs, Flores has helped workers achieve higher pay and fight for more respect.

Jorge Montiel, Lead Organizer for Coloradans for the Common Good presented her award. In recognizing her hard work in leading JESPA, he said, “With Vicki’s leadership, JESPA, in collaboration with CCG, has achieved a major milestone, raising the minimum wage in the district over the last few years from $12.49 to $18.40 per hour. That represents over $30 million of additional payroll every year, going to the households of the lowest-paid workers in the Jeffco schools.”

Flores reflected on her path to the labor movement, shaped by early stories from her grandmother who grew up on the sugar beet farms of Colorado, the youngest of 12 children of a migrant farmworker. She credited JESPA leaders for her continued inspiration, saying to those JESPA leaders present, “You and many others have demonstrated remarkable courage against a system that prefers silence and compliance.”

Every day, we see Flores’ work reflected in our pay, our ability to stand up for our rights as workers, and in our ability to stand up for our students’ right to a quality education.

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