Working for over eight years since its revival in 2002, the Latin American Workers Association (Lawas) has led numerous campaigns towards helping Latin American workers maintain their self-respect and improve their workers’ rights as well as their quality of life.
Since it started, Lawas has carried out an enormous task with regards to the Trade Unions by organising and supporting campaigns in order to protect the jobs of thousands of workers in the United Kingdom. Many of the defensive actions taken by different workers are well known; the cleaners who maintain the buses and Barclays Bank, the readmission of Juan Carlos Piedra who was sacked for being involved in Trade Union movements, and also the dispute involving UBS after it stated that it wanted to reduce the hours of some of its workers.
Lawas has also supported initiatives involving workers affiliated with Unison in places such as the Homerton Hospital (Hackney), the London Underground and its cleaners who work for the National Union of Rail, the Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) division, the National Shop Stewards Network and the Coordinadora Latinamericana (Latin American Coordinating Committee). Furthermore, Lawas has been in support of not deporting Iraqi refugees and it has collaborated with the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) in order to carry out reports regarding the situation of workers with no official papers or documentation.
Founded by the Chilean trade unionist Ernesto Leal, who died in September of 2009, Lawas in made up of and run by Latin American workers who literally make their stance from the workplace. Their objective is to lend a voice that stands for decent salaries for immigrant workers and defends them from being made victims of the companies that contract them.
Currently, the organisation helps its members so that they are aware of their workers’ rights, offering the necessary tools through means of workshops (English classes, courses on workers’ rights, I.T. Classes) and by supporting the workers’ demands that favour unionisation.
Next Friday, on the 17th of December, Lawas celebrates its “Fiesta de Navidad” (Christmas Party) with the slogan “Crossing boarders between Latin America and the rest of the world”, with the support from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies’ (SOAS) Students Union and the Coordinadora Latinoamericana.
The money raised at the Christmas party will serve to finance the workshops and the campaigns that support the union. Lawas keeps its doors open to all those workers who want to report any conflicts concerning workers’ rights or who want to find practical information about trade unions in the United Kingdom and the workshops that Lawas organises.