As our UFCW family continues to celebrate Black History Month, we’re asking members why it’s important to them. Daniel Garescher, who is Haitian/Caribbean-American, is a Local 1208 steward at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
To Daniel, Black History Month is important because it sheds light on the history of black Americans, something that “schools and textbooks do not always cover.”
“When the history and culture of black people in America is excluded, African-Americans can feel oppressed–we want to have pride about who we are,” Daniel says. “Without education about all that people of color are and can be–and what contributions they have made–we are reinforcing racism. Black History Month is a small effort to resolve this and counter negative images of black people that were perpetuated in the media and society for so much of our country’s history, and still persist today.”
Daniel got involved in the union because he saw first-hand how being part of a union family improved people’s quality of life, and fought for the rights of all workers, including people of color.
“My mother was working at Smithfield when I was in high school, and I was working as an interpreter for both Smithfield and the union. I started working at the plant myself after high school. I had already seen the value of having a voice at the plant through the union,” he says.
As a steward, Daniel fights every day for his coworkers and urges them to get more involved. His advice to his other union brothers and sisters is to “Sign up! Become a steward. Learn as much as you can and go to any trainings that you can go to. It will help you both at work and outside of work in your future. The union has helped me, a Haitian man, become more of a leader, more of a man.”
Daniel notes that the labor movement has a unique responsibility and is in the position to fight inequalities that extend beyond the workplace: “Workplace education and power is the best way to reduce the income divide. The labor movement can always do more to highlight and promote leaders of color to reduce discrimination–that’s why it’s so important that we not just continue to celebrate Black History Month, but continue to fight for civil rights in our daily work and lives.”