Meet An Organizer - Gabriela
“I Just Had Enough”
As we gear up for a big year ahead, we want to introduce you to the staff at the Heartland Workers Center. Meet Gabriela. Her story continues our series sharing the purpose, passion and personal stories of our community organizers and leaders.
Gabriela used to be employed at a meatpacking plant. She worked tirelessly in spite of the troubling practices of her employer, focused on her job and earning a paycheck to provide for her family. Then, she was invited to a community meeting where Heartland Workers Center staff were discussing workers’ rights. The conversation inspired her to get active.
“I wanted to know more. And I wanted to get involved,” she said. “I saw so many workers’ rights issues at the plant, and I just had enough. Something had to be done.”
Gabriela started regularly attending community meetings organized by the Center and began seeing the power she and her neighbors and fellow workers have when they come together, share their stories and raise their voices.
Now, she is a community organizer at the Center. She works alongside her neighbors, supporting them as they speak out for themselves and their community, encouraging them to use their collective power, so they don’t have to wonder, “what if?” Whether people have questions are about wage theft, worker safety, neighborhood litter, education or something equally pressing, Gabriela is helping identify the issues that matter to them and organize for change.
Reflecting on how organizing is changing neighborhoods, workplaces and communities, Gabriela said it comes down to “talking to people.”
“In the past, I couldn’t see how we could begin to talk to a stranger - it was terrifying. But, now, by talking to people and getting to know them, we’re identifying issues they care about and what they want. By connecting them with people who want the same things, together we will create change.”
Community meetings have become one of Gabriela’s favorite places to connect with others.
“You can really feel the work paying off at community meetings - people are coming together and listening to each other. We have the same ideas and goals. We can accomplish something together,” she said.
Gabriela also works with the Center’s OSHA-authorized Health and Safety Training Institute, helping employers and employees understand their roles and responsibilities in creating a safe and healthy work environment.
“I like the interactive nature of the OSHA trainings,” she said. “I love how hands on and fun they are. The trainees get their hands on the equipment, and they show us a lot, too.”
Motivated to help create a good future for her daughter, equality and safe communities and workplaces are among the changes for which Gabriela personally fights.