30 in 30 Presents: Laura Garza (Week 18)

Laura Garza 30in30

Laura Garza

BA, Sociology, UIC, 1997

Current work
In 1997, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had an influx of Latino workers who needed immigration and labor help. The demand for a bilingual liaison to assist with this new relationship led to the beginning of Laura’s important work that has spanned two decades. Laura is currently the Secretary/Treasurer for SEIU and her responsibilities are numerous. She currently oversees union operations for Midwest states outside of Illinois. Additionally, she oversees SEIU’s research department and, as treasurer, the union’s funds. Part of her job is working to build relationships with building owners, contractors, and community leaders as well as continuing her crucial immigration work with the union.

Connecting the personal and the social through sociology
Laura always wanted to work with communities in some capacity. Unsure of what that would look like, she was inspired by a friend and mentor – a sociology student at UIC – who suggested she take a sociology class. Social movements and sociology of gender classes were particularly interesting to Laura, and she remembers the impact Nilda Flores-Gonzales had on her, which continues to this day. Laura’s own experience as a Latina immigrant from Mexico, whose mother was a single mom of four, helped her connect with many of the concepts she studied in her sociology classes.

Advice for young students of sociology
Laura was a hardworking and involved student during her time at UIC and her advice to other students represents what her life’s work has been about: get involved. Although UIC is primarily a commuter school, Laura suggests that it is important to not just come and go, but find ways to connect at the school. She points out that there are many good things happening at UIC that can expand minds.

Inspiring the next generation of advocates
A wife and mother of two, Laura’s family is incredibly important to her, and she spends as much time as possible with them. Her passion for community involvement has rubbed off on her children; her daughter was recently involved in school action to save a teacher’s job. Laura, with her extensive know-how, was able to guide her daughter in the art of successful labor action. Laura’s advice to her daughter was that making an impact is not a one-time event, but an ongoing campaign that may require different components such as sit-ins, marches, media, and letters.

Future plans
Apart from continuing her important work with the union, Laura–a lover of dance–has promised herself that she will take some dance lessons before she hits retirement age!

Interviewed by Jamie Yager


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