Elizabeth Warren Speaks in California

Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

Hello Los Angeles!

Thank you Angelica -- I’m so proud to be in this fight with you. And can we hear it for First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom! Your work to empower women and girls is making a difference not just in California but around the country and the world. And let me give a huge thank you to Emily’s List for standing with me in this fight. I’m honored to have your endorsement. And thank you Congressman Honda for being here!

My name is Elizabeth Warren and I’m the woman who is going to beat Donald Trump in November. 

Now, before we get started, I wanted to say something about the state of the race. We’re looking forward to gaining as many delegates as we can tomorrow -- especially from the great state of California. I want to thank Senator Klobuchar and Mayor Buttigieg for running spirited races. And I look forward to their continued service to our party and our country. 

I also want to congratulate Joe Biden on his win in South Carolina. I respect his years of service. But no matter how many Washington insiders tell you to support him, nominating their fellow Washington insider will not meet this moment. Nominating a man who says we do not need any fundamental change in this country will not meet this moment. Nominating someone who wants to restore the world before Donald Trump, when the status quo has been leaving more and more people behind for decades, is a big risk for our party and our country. 

From the start of this campaign, despite so many great candidates with so many different perspectives, voters who were worried about beating Donald Trump have been told there are only two lanes, only two choices. And now we find ourselves barreling toward another primary along the same lanes as 2016: one for an insider, one for an outsider. 

Democratic voters should have more choice than that. America needs more choice than that. 

Voters deserve a choice of someone with unshakeable values who can also get things done, and bring all kinds of Democrats along with her. Voters deserve a choice of someone who can both do the work to transform our government from the inside and who can bring pressure to bear on government by leading a grassroots movement from the outside. 

We need to restore trust and a steady hand to our government. And we need a government that gets more done for the people, and gets it done with more urgency than anyone believes is possible. That’s why I’m running for president. 

Because here’s the truth: this election is about power. 

About who has too much of it. About who needs more of it. And about the fight to get that done. 

The story of California, like the history of America, is a story of persistence. And I’m here today because I believe we find our way down the path to a fairer, more equal and more just America by following the footsteps of courageous leaders who have come before us.

Fighters like Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina astronaut, fighters like Rita Moreno, the first Latina actress to win an Oscar, and fighters like Dolores Huerta, a leader who changed the course of American history.

Latinas who inspired today’s activists like Sophie Cruz, Edna Chavez, and Angelica Salas

Tonight, I’m here to honor Latinas who are unsung heroes of the American story.

Latinos, Latinas, and Latinx people have lived in America for centuries, many immigrating here like so many others to build a better future for their children and grandchildren.

But when they arrived, conditions were hardly welcoming or equal. During the Great Depression, our government turned its back on immigrant families. Whipping up fear that immigrants were taking jobs, our government initiated Mexican Repatriation, deporting hundreds of thousands of Latinos, American citizens and undocumented immigrants, to Mexico.

Then, during WWII, the government reversed itself, welcoming thousands of Latino soldiers into the military, and recruiting thousands more for the Bracero program for Mexican workers to help the war effort on farms and in railroads. These were one way relationships. 

Latinos were often excluded from G.I. benefits, while Bracero workers were paid poverty wages and forced to live in subhuman conditions. After the war, Mexican Americans were often robbed of the opportunity to pursue education, start a business, and buy a home. And in the 1950s, the US reversed itself again and deported more than a million Mexican nationals, including U.S. citizens.

The use and abuse of Latino and Latina labor continued almost two decades after the war ended. But by the 1960s, workers came together to demand change.

Many of us know the story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, of the National Farm Workers and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee -- and of the non-violent protest movement that rose up against greedy grape growers in the farmlands of Delano and eventually pierced the conscience of our nation. 

The movement ultimately inspired immigrant workers, Latinos and Latinas, to mobilize for change. I want to talk about that change right here in Los Angeles.

I want to tell a story not just as a teacher or as a candidate for President; I want to tell the story as the daughter of a janitor.

In the years after World War II , many major cities had unionized janitors. But over time, building owners who had once managed and hired their own janitorial staff were bought out, replaced by giant corporations that outsourced their cleaning services. Those giants sought out non-union workers, undocumented workers, women workers -- anyone with less power. Wages were cut, hours were extended, basic benefits were stripped away. 

Two very different worlds began to emerge.

By day thousands of executives, real estate brokers and lawyers poured into Century City, Los Angeles -- filling meeting rooms and boardrooms and making million-dollar deals. They crunched numbers, made pitches, and after a day of deal making, they headed out to their homes in the suburbs. 

But as they sat bumper to bumper in traffic on the way back to their plush lives, hundreds of workers clocked into LA’s largest office buildings to clean up after them.

The janitors, mostly women, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, settled in to back-breaking work all through the night. Cleaning tall windows, mopping long narrow hallways and dragging pounds of garbage from the top floor down to the loading dock. 

No strangers to struggle, many of the janitors believed their circumstances would never change. They would forever be stuck in a world they described as “luxury by day, sweatshop by night.” 

Then, one day, a few upstart organizers from the Service Employees International Union -- SEIU -- showed up with a simple message about power. They started with numbers: there were more hardworking janitors than there were corporate CEOs. And if the janitors stood together, they could wield enough power to make change.

At first the workers were skeptical of the union. Some were even afraid. Afraid of losing their jobs. Afraid of being deported.

Many of the Latina janitors had left their home countries in Central America, fleeing violence that, in some cases, had been caused by U.S. interventions that destabilized the region.

And like so many women, the Latina janitors were encouraged not to speak too loudly. 

Quietly, over time the Latina janitors began to share their stories with each other.

Maria Quintanilla was one of those janitors. In 1980, she fled the civil war in El Salvador. A mother of two boys, she held onto her dream of becoming a teacher. So, on the weekends, she took classes at UCLA to inch toward her degree. 

Rosa Ayala also worked long hours for little pay. She saved every penny she made in a large plastic bottle she emptied each week to care for her family.

Ana Veliz worked not one but two jobs to send money to her aging mother and six children in El Salvador.

These women began speaking publicly to demand more rights for all workers. 

They proved the lesson that when women start telling their stories change is on the way. 

Their courage inspired other janitors to come off the sidelines. As their numbers grew, they worked with SEIU to form organizing committees and demand improvements on the job. 

They wanted three things: Higher wages, better benefits, and the ability to sit across the negotiating table as equals. 

The women didn’t have to go it alone. SEIU was there, and SEIU enlisted help. Community leaders, activists and members of the clergy joined walkouts, sit-ins and strikes that disrupted daily life. Of course, there was pushback. 

And as more people learned about the struggle of the janitors, the corporations called in local law enforcement to confront the strikers and their supporters. 

Tensions escalated. Marches caused traffic jams. Garbage was dumped in the heart of Century City. Public confrontations dogged building owners at posh restaurants.

The janitors and their allies were bold and fearless on their own, but they were also union-trained and deeply committed to non-violent civil disobedience. Their demonstrations may have filled their bosses with rage and inconvenienced the city, but they were also peaceful. Even so, weeks after the janitors began taking to the streets, police began making arrests to intimidate the workers into submission.

Then it happened. 

On June 15th, 1990 400 janitors and their allies took to the streets in a peaceful protest. They put on their red shirts and marched under the banner “Justice for Janitors.”

To avoid any misunderstanding, union leadership and community organizers had met with law enforcement ahead of the march and underscored their peaceful intent. Police officials agreed that as long as the march was peaceful and orderly, there would be no issues. 

When the crowd of 400 marched from Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills into Century City for an organized rally, they were met by 100 police officers fully decked out in riot gear

With courage and purpose, the janitors stepped forward. Law enforcement tightened ranks in front of them, then ordered them to disperse and turn back. They refused. 

Whistles pierced the air as the police declared the march to be an unlawful assembly. The marchers held steady. They locked arms and in an act of civil disobedience sat down in the middle of the street. They prepared to be arrested. 

But the police did not begin arrests. Instead, they descended upon the demonstrators, beating them with billy clubs and forcing them to the ground over and over again. 

For half an hour, women and men, children and grandparents were brutalized by police officers in broad daylight. By the end of the confrontation, 42 janitors were arrested. 21 janitors were hospitalized. One of those in the hospital included Ana Veliz, who had recently learned she was pregnant. While Ana was on the ground she was clubbed three times in the back by the police. Four days later she had a miscarriage.

As word of the brutal assault spread across LA and around the nation, the police claimed they acted in self-defense. But news footage of the brutal beatings showed a different picture. The mostly immigrant, mostly Latino and Latina janitors, were unarmed, peaceful, and no match for the force of the LAPD.

The janitors faced a choice: retreat or continue the protest? With 21 of their brothers and sisters in the hospital, they resolved to carry on. 

They showed up on the streets of Century City, Los Angeles, the next day and the next day and the next day, determined to make their voices heard. Thousands of supporters and national civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, joined the janitors on the streets of downtown LA. 

The intense publicity of the Century City protests turned the nation’s attention to the poverty wages that drove janitors to protest in the first place. 

Just two weeks after the first brutal attack, SEIU negotiated a contract that gave janitors a raise, benefits and a seat at the table. Latinas had led the fight and won!

This story of resistance teaches us three powerfully important lessons. 

First: the fight for justice is never one and done.

Five years before janitors took to the streets of LA, union membership had been in sharp decline. But SEIU didn’t give up, they doubled down. Union organizers put public pressure on building owners in Pittsburgh, workers fought for better working conditions in Denver, and they all raised hell to support the janitors at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.

By the time SEIU brought their fight to LA, a roadmap of resistance had already been drawn -- all it took was the courage to organize and make it happen. 

And that courage spread. Close on the heels of the janitors’ victory in Los Angeles, janitors took on -- and won fights in D.C., Houston, and Miami. 

Second: It’s not enough to have big ideas, it takes a plan to turn those ideas into reality. When union organizers began fighting for justice for janitors, they quickly learned that the rules of the game had changed. Their fight was no longer with local building owners, it was now against global companies intent on cost cutting to boost their own profitability. 

So the janitors dropped their focus on the powerless subcontractors who signed their paychecks, and instead took on the much harder fight of engaging huge corporations. 

Instead of organizing one firm, they organized the entire sector. 

They broadened their attack -- and they broadened their coalition of workers. Instead of demonizing undocumented workers, the janitors embraced them, because workers are workers regardless of their status!

And one more, instead of limiting themselves just to workers, they mobilized allies who weren’t janitors, pulling anyone they could into the fight.

And that leads to our third lesson. 

It is an unshakeable truth I learned a long time ago: nobody makes it on their own. 

Anyone who wants to make real change -- meaningful change, lasting change -- needs allies, needs partners, needs a winning coalition. Janitors were on the frontlines in Los Angeles, but they had people of faith, fast food workers, domestic workers, farm workers and teachers, working families all fighting to make real change. 

LA’s janitors were mostly women, mostly Latino and Latina who had come to the United States in search of a better life. The executives who looked for every place to squeeze a little more profits out of their operations didn’t see these workers as mothers trying to support a family or future teachers on their way to other jobs. They simply saw these women as costs. 

The corporations perfected the politics of division. They tried to pit immigrant and undocumented workers against African-American workers who had held the vast majority of cleaning service jobs before the latest surge of immigration. 

The bosses know that if workers turn their fire on each other, corporate profits would continue to rise.

SEIU refused to take the bait. Instead of blaming immigrant workers for lowering working standards -- union leaders targeted their organizing efforts to include Latino janitors. They built alliances, person by person, home by home -- and they succeeded.

After SEIU won a stunning victory in LA, Justice for Janitors went on to grow and organize nearly a quarter of a million janitors in over 30 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Their sustained resistance sparked a multi-racial movement that today includes Latinos, Asian American Pacific Islanders, and African American workers and that has negotiated more than 27 master contracts to improve the lives janitors and their families. 

SEIU and Justice for Janitors showed how refusing to follow those who would divide us and instead working together lets us build a stronger future for everyone. 

Which brings me to Donald Trump. 

We are living through a dark moment in our nation’s history. Donald Trump ran a campaign demonizing Mexicans and immigrants -- and he won. 

Since then, Latino communities and communities of color have borne the brunt of attacks from Donald Trump and his administration -- from family separation to deportations to inciting violence. Donald Trump and his henchmen fan the flames of white supremacy, pad the pockets of private detention centers, and ignore the constitution -- all to advance their own corrupt efforts to hang onto power and boost their own personal financial interests.

This country faces big challenges. But I’m here today because I believe that the lessons of Latino history are instructive to this moment of crisis. 

Latinx and Chicano history teaches us the power of fighting back. From persistent Latinas like the janitors who fought for justice, to labor leaders like Dolores Huerta, to Chicano students who led the 1968 East LA walkouts, to State Senator Maria Elena Durazo who helped lead the fight against Prop 187 we learn the power of fighting back.

And we still learn every day. Miguel Contreras and UNITE here lead us in this fight! Local 11 shows the world what it means to fight for our brothers and sisters to build a better life.

And we keep learning. Queer liberation activist Sylvia Rivera, and leaders of the undocumented youth movement today, and the millions of parents working toward a better future for their children, history teache us the power of fighting back.

Yes, these are hard times. Yes, people are afraid. And the danger is real. Our very democracy hangs in the balance.

So we can get timid. We can cower. Or we can fight back like the Latina janitors of a generation ago. Me, I’m fighting back.

Fighting back is an act of patriotism.

This is the fight we have been called to: the fight to save our democracy.

And in November we will show what we can get done. We will get rid of the most corrupt president in living memory. We will get rid of the man who creates chaos and feeds on fear. This Democratic party MUST beat Donald Trump. And that means we need a nominee who can win that fight.

We need a nominee who has unshakeable values AND who has a real track record for winning hard fights. I will win that fight.

But we will do so much more than beat Donald Trump. This is our moment to build the America of our best values. 

Together we will raise wages for working people.

Together we will fight for universal health care. Health care is a basic human right and we fight for basic human rights.

Together we will end environmental racism, fight climate change, and save our planet. 

Together we will fight for high-quality public education for every one of our children, including our children with disabilities.

Together we will fight to cancel student loan debt.

Together we will reduce gun violence in this country and keep our children safe. 

Together we will fight for safe, affordable housing as a human right. 

Together we will fight for an immigration system that reflects our best values as a country. 

Together we will affirm that equal means equal, in the workplace, in marriage, every place -- and we will not rest until our trans brothers and sisters are safe and valued everywhere they go.

Together we will build an America that celebrates our differences and that brings everyone to the table to meet big problems with even bigger solutions. 

We face an uphill battle but we cannot allow our fear to consume us. Remember the courageous janitors who fought back in 1990? Their legacy lives on. SEIU- USWW is fighting for an Immigrant New Deal for workers and their families. Janitors are taking power into their own hands and eradicating workplace sexual violence in an industry where immigrant women are especially vulnerable. 

As we speak, nearly two thousand miles from where we are today, 4,000 janitors are on strike in Minneapolis. SEIU Local 26 means business, but here is what I love about their fight. 

The janitors on strike are fighting for wages. They’re fighting for safe workplaces. And they are also fighting for sustainable building maintenance to help meet our climate goals and protect our planet. 

We stand with SEIU Local 26 and their fight for a better tomorrow. 

The living legacy of Justice for Janitors shows us that the fight for justice will never be over. With every mile we take on the moral arc of justice, we make the next mile possible. 

We have this opportunity in 2020, this opportunity to come together to make real change. 

This is our time. This is the moment we have been called to. The moment for us to make history. Now is our time to dream big, fight hard and win.