Originally founded to advocate for just wages and working conditions among San Antonio’s public school workers, SWU’s scope of work and political impact has grown significantly over the past 30 years to address these multiple facets of injustice that impact low-income families in South Texas. SWU’s areas of strategic organizing include Economic Justice, with a focus on organizing classified low income workers; Healthy Communities; and Popular Education and Culture.
Over the years, the organization has won major victories, for example, the contamination cleanup at the former Kelly Air Force Base and passed regulations on climate and air quality. SWU has built a strong popular political education and leadership development program that has involved thousands of members and allies from across the country. Additionally, SWU has advanced a political empowerment program that has educated new voters, increased voter turnout, and won key redistricting battles in majority-minority voting districts. The economic justice program at SWU has won living wage resolutions in low-income school districts and worked to reframe the debate on fair living wages through strategic grievances and recently won a vote against outsourcing the Food Service Department at a major school district. SWU’s movement-building efforts have led to concrete partnerships and alliances that connect movements for justice in poor and working class communities of color to a larger collective struggle for systemic change. The most recent victory includes passing the first Climate Action & Adaptation Plan for San Antonio with strong focus on Equity.
SWU organizes its members within the complex political context of South Texas, where residents face the reality of scarce resources, low-paying jobs, and limited economic advancement opportunities. The surprising change of national administration coupled with the state budget crisis have led to additional cuts to social services and public education, women’s reproduction rights, increased unemployment, and policies that further marginalize working- class and migrant families. State and national budget cuts have weakened the public safety net for low-income communities of color across the state and caused countless hate crimes and unjust policies against immigrant families. SWU believes in reframing public policy through the lens of workers while increasing community led structures of education and economy thus changing the structural system. Direct action is key to uplifting our voices and address fear within our membership. Our aim is to build a strong, resilient base of workers and community leaders who are the architects of their city rather than the objects.