UTSA Library Receives Donation of Historical Records Documenting 1990 Levi Strauss & Co. Mass Layoff
To become the pre-eminent library on the Mexican-American experience, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Library’s Special Collections has acquired the historical records for the 1990 Levi Strauss & Co. mass layoffs and will include photos, documents, and memorabilia to be shared with the community in 2022. The archive will be organized and cataloged by Special Collections staff and will be made available to students, researchers, and community members as non-circulating items.
The Fuerza Unida Collection and its 20 boxes of material will document the fight for severance pay and benefits owed to the 1,150 women at the three defunct Levi’s manufacturing plants in San Antonio who experienced a layoff, and the aftermath that included protests and hunger strikes. As a result of the events, Fuerza Unida was created to offer empowerment and advocacy for women workers of color, to achieve social, economic, and environmental justice.
According to Dean Hendrix, the dean of libraries at UTSA, the collection will offer greater historical insight into the struggles of Mexican-Americans, and provide a glimpse into the evolution of social justice efforts for minorities in San Antonio. “There was a global corporation who treated them as if they were disposable,” Hendrix told San Antonio ABC-affiliate KSAT 12. “Despite that fact,” Hendrix said, “the women joined forces to create Fuerza Unida.”
Petra Mata and Viola Casares, both displaced workers of the Levi’s plant, who continue to advocate for worker rights, donated their historical records to engage and inspire future generations of social advocates and researchers, according to UTSA Today. “We feel like it’s so important for us to share our story and our history with the university and with students. It’s not just me, Viola, and Juanita. It’s the 1,150 workers that were displaced in one minute,” Mata said. “Sharing our stories will keep alive the 30 years of our life’s struggle—the sacrifices, the fight, the hunger. We want our lives to count, and we want the voice of workers to count and to be remembered.”