Founded by labor rights activist César Chávez, LUPE builds stronger, healthier communities where colonia residents use the power of civic engagement for social change. From fighting deportations, to providing social services and English classes, to organizing for streetlights and drainage, LUPE responds to the needs of the community, and takes action that creates a chance for a better life. LUPE’s strength derives from our 7,000+ members throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

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.

Our History

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.