César Chávez founded LUPE, a community union rooted in the belief that members of the low-income community have the responsibility and the obligation to organize themselves. Through their association, they begin to advocate and articulate for the issues and factors that impact their lives. Further, César Chávez believed that for people to have ownership of this endeavor, they have to invest of themselves, their efforts and resources, to sustain it. The membership, and the responsibility that comes with it, form the base that is the power of the organization.

Cesar Chavez, Founder of LUPE

César Chávez founded LUPE in 1989. LUPE was founded on the belief that when people work together, they can impact change. César realized that workers had needs outside the work place. He envisioned LUPE as the entity to help workers and their families by applying the same principles and strategies that he used to build the UFW.

In 2003, LUPE was established in the Rio Grande Valley by Executive Director Juanita Valdez-Cox, then UFW State Director for South Texas. Juanita brought the LUPE model after farmworker leaders recognized the need for a community organizing model to advance the objectives of farmworkers and colonia residents.

Our Strategies

The LUPE strategy of change has evolved over the last three decades and now rest on four pillars.

Responding to the social and economic needs of low-income people in their struggle to overcome the barriers and challenges their face in their daily lives.

Investing in the development of the members and community at large. This self-help program is designed to develop and enable the capacity of low-income families.

Transforming is the element of LUPE that results from the people’s participation in addressing their social and economic needs, developing their human capacity, and advocating for themselves.

Building a Community of Conscience that bridges economic and social differences across the entire community.

Movement Victories

The events marked by the striped circle icons represent the victories during United Farm Workers under the leadership of Rebecca Flores, state director of South Texas. The ones marked by the full circles represent those during LUPE under the leadership of Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director.

1981: Ban of Cortito

Legislation passed; Growers subsequently began requiring workers to use a knife for weeding seedlings.  In 1987 a law was passed to outlaw unnecessary stoop labor but the Republican Governor vetoed it ‘because workers already had Workers Compensation coverage.’

1983: Clean Toilets & Drinking Water in the fields

Texas Dept. of Health adopted field sanitation rules rather than face a national boycott of Texas fresh vegetables which ‘might be contaminated by human waste.’

1984: Inclusion under Workers Compensation law

In light of a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, a special session of the Legislature adopted legislation guaranteeing coverage for all farm workers.

1984: Pesticide Controls

Texas Department of Agriculture adopted a set of rules requiring farmers to warn neighbors (when requested) of impending aerial spraying.

1985: Unemployment Compensation for farmworkers

Following the same argument as the Workers Comp law, the Supreme Court forced the Legislature to provide coverage to farm workers who had been excluded.

1985: Minimum Wage improvement

The Legislature raised the state minimum wage from $1.70 to $3.35 per hour.  Later revision permanently tied the state minimum to the federal minimum wage.

1987: Pesticide Controls

Under threat of another discrimination lawsuit, the Legislature wrote a law which established requirements that growers record their use of pesticides and provide farmworkers access to those records.  It also required training for farm workers and distribution of pesticide use information.  Under a Republican Commissioner of Agriculture most provisions have been declared superseded by federal Worker Protection Standards.

2015: Colonia Streetlights

We worked with county officials and state legislators to pass HB 3002, a bill that gives the county additional tools and authority to install streetlights in rural neighborhoods. Under legislation passed in 2007, the County already had the authority to install streetlights and collect a fee to pay for the electricity the lights use. HB 3002 created a process for collecting that fee through the county tax assessor.

2009: FEMA Lawsuit Re: Hurricane Dolly

In conjunction with Texas Riogrande Legal Aid, LUPE filed a lawsuit against FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Dolly for denying housing repair applications to low-income residents in the colonias. The judge ordered FEMA to publish clearer standards for determining which disaster victims qualify for repair funds and ordered the agency to reconsider denial of home repairs to Hurricane survivors in the lower Rio Grande Valley.

2011: Anti-Immigrant Legislation

Defeated over 100 anti-immigration bills in Texas legislature as part of statewide “Texas Can do Better” campaign coordinated through the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance and the Equal Voice Network. Organizations from across the state of Texas participated in the campaign, lobbying law makers, building alliances with local businesses and churches, engaging grassroots leaders from various communities, and protesting in front of the state Capitol.

2012: Colonia Streetlights

After an 8 year campaign, LUPE and ARISE members won the installation of streetlights in 13 Hidalgo County colonias. Working with the Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE) initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, LUPE members worked with Hidalgo County Commissioners and their precinct staff to fund and install the streetlights.

2001-2007: Driver’s License for Immigrants

The Texas Legislature passed a bill removing the requirement that applicants present a Social Security Card to apply for a license.  This provision would have enabled undocumented immigrants to obtain a license in Texas.  Although the bill passed with overwhelming support, the Republican Governor used his veto power to kill the legislation.  In every session since 2001 the Republican majority has blocked any effort to pass a bill to allow immigrants to obtain a license.

2001: Resident Tuition for Undocumented Students

Through the organizing efforts of a broad coalition, the legislature passed a bill permitting all graduates of Texas high schools to enroll at any university in Texas and pay resident tuition rates instead of ‘foreign student’ rates.

2005-2007: Colonia Streetlights

In 2005, the Legislature authorized counties to expend a portion of their CDBG funds to install and maintain streetlights in colonias. In 2007 they authorized those same counties to collect a fee from colonia residents to pay for the electricity used by those streetlights.

2008: DHS Lawsuit

In conjunction with South Texas Civil Rights Project and other non-profit groups, LUPE filed a petition seeking clarification from Border Patrol on its plan to keep checkpoints open and follow immigration enforcement procedures during hurricane evacuation.

2008: Delegations to Valley Police Chiefs Re: 287g

LUPE member delegations met with police chiefs in nine Valley cities to discuss the harmful impact on communities due to 287g (local police enforcing immigration law). The police departments agreed that they did not want to lose the trust of the community through enforcement of 287g. Also as a result of these meetings, the Hidalgo County sheriff’s department now accepts the LUPE membership card as a form of ID for families who want to visit relatives in county detention.

2010: Testifying before State Board of Education

LUPE leaders and staff testified during the Board of Education’s public hearing to ensure that Cesar Chavez would not be taken out of 5th grade US History curriculum. Due to numerous testimonies from civil rights groups and concerned parents, as well as thousands of faxes & calls to Board members, the State Board of Education decided to accept Cesar Chavez as part of the ‘required’ curriculum to teach 5th grade students.

2010: Food Stamps & Assistance

On behalf of LUPE and community members, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid filed a lawsuit against the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s practice of illegally keeping low-income families from obtaining food stamp aid, resulting in only half of qualifying families receiving assistance. Efforts are underway to ensure that Texas works to eliminate the backlog of food stamp applications by reviewing applications in a timely manner.

2011: Drainage & Housing Improvements

Without the proper infrastructure, Colonia residents face persistent flooding, some tolerating standing water for weeks before it’s pumped out. Hidalgo County Commissioners agreed to devote at least $14 million of Hurricane Dolly Disaster Recovery funds to improve drainage projects. Additionally, colonia residents will be prioritized when the federal government distributes $122 million to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Dolly. This was the work of LUPE, ARISE, TOP, Proyecto Azteca and the

2012: Parks & Walking Trails

Working with the Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE) initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, LUPE members achieved the construction or renovation of three outside community spaces for exercise and recreation close to Hidalgo County Colonias.

2013: Immigrant Private Prison

With the RGV Equal Voice Network, helped stop the City of McAllen from constructing 1000-bed private prison that would have incarcerated immigrants for profit.