Lecture: Martha Gonzales-Cortez


Location: McKenna Hall Auditorium

Martha Gonzalez-Cortes has spent her adult life advocating for people who live the migrant life she knows so well, starting out as a health aide and outreach worker in camps. She offered legal assistance, helping workers file claims for minimum-wage violations and fighting unfair housing. As a labor organizer, she unearthed tales of harrowing working conditions for Latinas in this country — women working 12-hour days on assembly lines with no bathroom breaks, women sewing uniforms in a factory with no windows or ventilation. When they blew their noses, she says, “balls of yarn came out, they had inhaled so much thread into their bodies.”In February of 2009 she took over the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan for the second time. She was executive director from 2000 to 2003, then left for Lansing to be state director of the Office of Migrant Affairs, coordinating services for nearly 50,000 migrants like her parents, Jose and Maria Gonzalez.