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Empowering Workers' Voices and Advancing Social Justice Through Art.

The arts possess a remarkable ability to ignite social change and amplify the voices of those often overlooked. Recently, I had the privilege of creating artwork for SEIU’s 2024 conventions and workers’ march. Commissioned to create a series of portraits and a large-scale art installation, I found myself deeply immersed in a movement that resonates with my core values of championing workers’ rights.

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The centerpiece of the march, a large-scale art installation titled the Arch of Resistance, pays tribute to union workers. Adorned with portraits sourced from the SEIU Flickr account, which serves as a repository of their rallies, conventions, and marches, the arch also features my signature hand-carved block prints symbolizing various industries and work tools. Each element, from empowering messaging to symbolic icons, such as a “worker power” logo and a sweeping broom representing sweeping out dirty injustice, contributes to a powerful narrative of resilience and activism.

Through the portrait series, I had the opportunity to engage closely with individuals from the fast-food, healthcare, and homecare industries. Conducting interviews allowed me to delve into their motivations for leading in their local unions and to understand their aspirations for the future. These workers are at the forefront of enacting policy changes and improving lives.

union workers write their hopes for work on satin ribbons
Ribbons of Change, 2024, fabric ink and relief printmaking on satin ribbons, 66" x 2 each

I had the pleasure of hosting a block printing and ribbon-making workshop for union workers from the fast food industry during one of SEIU’s blitzes in Los Angeles. The workers wrote their hopes and concerns on colorful satin ribbons using fabric markers and block prints that I carved. I taught them how to ink and print on the fabric, and they shared many of their experiences and the meaning behind the words they chose for their ribbons. Since most of the workers were monolingual Spanish speakers, the majority of the ribbons are in Spanish. 

This workshop helped me get to know them better and connected me with Candida, one of the workers featured in the portrait series. The ribbons were intended to be part of an installation showcasing the portraits, but that portion was not included in the final event. However, the carvings the workers used were incorporated into the pattern that adorned the side panel of the Arch of Resistance.

SEIU (Service Employees International Union) is an international union that represents about 2 million workers in the public sector, healthcare, and property services. SEIU is the largest health care union in the United States, the largest property services union, and the second-largest public employees union.

Thank you  to Big Bowl of Ideas for extending this opportunity to collaborate with SEIU and contribute to such a meaningful cause.