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Funded in part by a grant from TexTreasures and by the UT Arlington Library.

Jaime Martínez


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(142 pages)

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Biography:

Born in 1946, labor and civil rights activist Jaime Martínez was raised in San Antonio, Texas. He left San Antonio to work as a musician after attending Lanier High School and returned to San Antonio in 1966 to work for Friedrich Refrigeration, and married in 1968. He joined the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE, now the IUE-AFL-CIO) Local 780 in 1966. He served on the IUE executive board as secretary treasurer for IUE District 11, the first Mexican American at the national level, and served as the National Labor Coordinator for Coordinadora 96. He served as first vice president for the Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO and as president of the national Labor Council of Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). He is founder and president of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council #4626 in San Antonio. He was appointed National Chairperson of the Immigration Committee for LCLAA in 2001 and Labor Advisor to the national LULAC, and in 2004 he was elected treasurer of LULAC at the national level.

Interview Summary:

Jaime Martínez begins with his family's background and talks about an uncle, Bernabe Martínez, an early labor organizer of Comite Numero Cinco (Committee Number Five) who was killed by a Bexar county sheriff. He recalls joining his first organization, the Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana with his grandfather and his grandmother's appreciation for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He reveals his musical background as a trumpet player in a number of bands, such as the Sunglows and the Deltones, touring the U.S. and Canada, playing for Paul Anka, and meeting legendary drummer Gene Krupa. He refers to the health problems he began experiencing because of his musician's lifestyle which led to his decision to settle down. He gives his views on the Vietnam War and explains his wanting to enlist in the military and later marching in San Antonio against the war in 1968. He discusses the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE, now the IUE-AFL-CIO) Local 780 strike against the Friedrich Refrigeration Company (now the Friedrich Air Conditioning Company) in 1964 and the arrest of Leonora Silva. He talks about getting his first job with Friedrich in 1966 and his growing leadership role in the IUE. He elaborates upon the IUE organization levels and provides details of his own progression to union leadership. He describes his first trip to IUE headquarters in Washington, D.C., and his first union-organizing assignment in 1972 in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He explains the term Bowl Ware [sic, Boulwarism] as a form of union busting, citing the 1960 IUE strike against the Hendersonville General Electric Company plant. He recalls representing a member of the Hatfield family in a labor dispute and recounts an incident of harrassment from a Hendersonville deputy. He shares his experience in assisting Crystal Lee Sutton with the J. P. Stevens boycott [in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.] for the Textile Workers Union of America. He recounts his experience with race discrimination while organizing a union drive at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation plant in Louisville, Georgia. Mr. Martínez gives his reasons for his return to San Antonio in 1977 and the continuing of his union organizing efforts at the Temple Manufacturing plant. He expresses his enthusiasm about his work with Coordinadora, an organization for immigrant rights, pointing out the organization's stance against the brutality of police and border patrol officers, and describes the events of the Coordinadora '96 march in Austin and his subsequent health problems. He discusses his concerns over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and his involvement in the National Labor Council of Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). He touches on the labor movement in Mexico and the presidency of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, and details an incident as an election observer for the Alianza Cívica in Mexico. He shares details of his association with César Chávez and Henry B. Gonzales, particularly when he was up for election to the IUE executive board. He mentions such prominent civil rights activists and supporters as Martin Luther King, Jr., Lucille Banta, Ralph Abernathy, and Edward M. Kennedy.

Locations of residence or activity:

San Antonio

Interview Date:

10/26/1997