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Economic Empowerment

History of SER-Jobs for Progress

Much has been written concerning the background of Operation SER. It is common knowledge that this program is rooted in the concern expressed by the then existing equal employment opportunity program of the Department of the Navy over the inadequate sources of recruiting and development among the proverty stricken people of the Southwest. It is known that the then Director of the Navy's program, Girard P. Clark, agreed with Roberto Ornelas, then Director of Mexican American Programs for the Navy's EEO program and with George Roybal, Industrial Employment Policy Specialist, that such a program was not only needed, but should be developed and authorized them to direct their efforts toward this end. Much has been written of the invitation extended to the American G.I. Forum by LULAC to join together and pool their resources in a regional manpower program to be called Operation SER. What followed this historic agreement - the proposal prepared by George Roybal, IEPS, Department of the Navy, which was submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor and the Office of Economic Opportunity - the creation of a national board - the funding of the proposal and the beginning of what is considered to be the most outstanding manpower program in this country is now history.

But, what has never been written is the tremendous amount of time, effort, energy and dedication that led to the creation of SER, of the dreams and disillusions, of the successes and failures of those who for too long have remained unnamed, and whose contributions should never be forgotten.

On February 7, 1965, Roberto Ornelas appeared before a National Supreme Council Meeting of LULAC in El Paso, Texas, Honorable William D. Bonilla presiding, and according to the official minutes of this meeting taken by Belen Robles, National Secretary, Roberto Ornelas, spoke on his work with the Navy and their special interest in people of Latin origin. He stated that the greatest problem was that Latin Americans did not have a referral agency where skilled and semi-skilled Latin Americans could register and government contractors could contact for needed personnel.

On February 12, 1965, at a LULAC Council 60 Meeting, Roberto Ornelas made a presentation concerning the action of the National Supreme Council. LULAC District VIII Director, Danny Sendejas of Galveston, Texas, was present and pledged his cooperation in this project. A motion to undertake a volunteer program of registering, classifying and referring Mexican American applicants to industry was made by Ernest Eguia and seconded by Joe Ramon. Council President Roy Martinez called for a vote on the motion. It passed unanimously.

LULAC Council 60 plunged into the vast amount of work necessary to carry out this project with enthusiasm. Committees were appointed and at a committee meeting attended by David Adame, Texas LULAC Director, Reverend James Navarro, George Roybal and Roberto Ornelas, it was agreed to name the project "LULAC Jobs for Progress Center."

Work continued at a rapid pace, and because a National LULAC Supreme Council Meeting was scheduled to be held in Houston, Texas, on April 10-11, 1965, it was decided to hold the formal opening on April 10. At 10:30 a.m., Judge Alfred Hernandez, master of ceremonies for the occasion welcomed those present at the LULAC Council 60 House at 3004 Bagby Street. Among those present were the Honorable William D. Bonilla, LULAC National President, Honorable David Adame, Texas LULAC Director, and Honorable E.D. Cardiel, New York LULAC Director. Houston industries present at this event were; Humble Oil and Refining, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, Cameron Iron Works, Shell Oil Company, General Foods, Gulf Oil Company, Coca Cola Bottling Company, Brown and Root, Houston Lighting and Power Company, Olin Corporation, Sinclair Oil Corporation, Tellepsen Construction Company, the Associated General Contractors, and the Texas Highway Heavy Department. The main speaker of the event was Girard P. Clark, Director of Navy Equal Employment Opportunity Program who was totally dedicated to the creation of this program.

On May 7-9, 1965, the Texas LULAC State Convention was held in Lubbock, Texas, Honorable David Adame of Houston, Texas presiding. At this convention, a major topic of discussion was the establishment of the LULAC Jobs for Progress Center in Houston, Texas. State Director David Adame requested the Navy Department's representatives Roberto Ornelas, George Roybal, and Robert D. Anthony to expand their efforts and assist in the establishment of similar centers in other areas of the state. Carlos Truan, LULAC National Executive Director, requested that the next LULAC Job Placement Center be established in Corpus Christi, Texas. At the final session, the following resolution was passed:

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, the second largest minority group in the United States is made up of some five million Americans with Spanish surnames, and the majority of these Latin Americans live in the Southwest from Texas to California, and

WHEREAS, throughout this vast area they suffer the greatest unemployment and under-employment, the least education and the lowest utilization of any group, and realizing that the Federal Government's Equal Employment Opportunity Program had offered no solution to this deplorable situation, the Department of the Navy, through its Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program and its Specialists for Latin American Affairs and the National President of LULAC, working together, pinpointed the problem; the lack of employment recruitment sources, and resolved to correct this situation, and

WHEREAS, the Supreme Council of LULAC, duly assembled in El Paso authorized the establishment of a Job Placement Center for Latin Americans in the City of Houston, Texas, and

WHEREAS, through the efforts of the Field Specialists of the Navy's Equal Employment Opportunity Program and the entire membership of LULAC Council 60, the first Job Placement Center in this country for Latin Americans has been established and future Job Placement Center under the sponsorship of LULAC are to be established,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that this convention, assembled in Lubbock, Texas commend the efforts of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program of the Department of the Navy and the entire membership of LULAC Council 60, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of the Navy, the Director of the Navy Program, and the President of LULAC Council 60.

Approved and signed this 9th day of May 1965 at Lubbock, Texas.

Signed by David Adame, LULAC State Director for Texas
Signed by Belen Robles, Convention Secretary

During the latter part of April through July of 1965, LULAC Council 60 spent many hours at the LULAC House working the Job Placement Center. Since Saturday was an ideal time for registering those employed and who wished to better themselves, the LULAC House was open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for this purpose. Since the response from the community was overwhelming, it soon became a common practice to see wives of some LULAC members lending a helping hand. On any given Saturday Sam Alderete, Joe Ramon, Roy Martinez and their wives would be seen working along with David Adame, Toby Hernandez, Gilbert Gomez, Juvencio Rodriquez, Benny Martinez, Placido Martinez, Tony Alvarez, Ernest Eguia, etc.

In spite of all this work, and in spite of the response from industry, the actual number of registrants placed was discouraging. At a meeting of LULAC Council 60 in early June, after much discussion on the issue, a motion was made that LULAC Council 60 close down the Job Placement Center. The motion was duly seconded and the Council President called for discussion on the motion. David Adame was the first speaker against the motion. He argued that if the motion passed, it could mean the end of a project which could alter the destinies and lives of Mexican Americans in the entire nation. Tony Alvarez followed David Adame and asked the council to reconsider and volunteered to take over as chairman of the project. After further discussion a vote was called for and the motion was defeated. Had not David Adame, Tony Alvarez, Joe Ramon and other members who saw that this project could be the embryo of a plan that would expand nationwide, Operation SER today could still be but a dream.

On June 19, 1965, the second LULAC Jobs for Progress Center was formally dedicated in Corpus Christi, Texas. Previous to the opening, Roberto Ornelas, George Roybal, and Navy IEPS Gary Larsen and Jim Garfield had met on several occasions with the Honorable William D. Bonilla, LULAC National President, and Carlos Truan, LULAC National Executive Director. Carlos Truan spent many hours away from his business and was very instrumental in the formation of the Corpus Christi Center.

In September 1965, a third LULAC Job Placement Center was opened in Beaumont, Texas, to serve the Golden Triangle Area. Instrumental in its establishment were many LULAC members in the area including Paul Paredes, Romeo Vera, Frank Rojas, Paul Silva, Dolores Guerrero and Rudy Saldana.

These three volunteered LULAC Job Placement Centers demonstrated very clearly not only the need fro those centers, but that industry would respond and avail itself of their services. Because of their success, the Navy Department's EEO Program for the Mexican American was able to direct its efforts toward the establishment of a Regional Mexican American Manpower Program funded by the Federal Government.

Had it not been for the dedication, the unselfishness, the faith, and above all, the belief that such a project could become a reality on the part of the hundreds of LULAC members who gave of themselves, there might never have been an Operation SER Jobs for Progress. Yet, there is a SER today, molded from a small beginning, from work, sweat and oftentimes tears, which still believes in the basic concepts upon which it was formed. These concepts, expressed by George Roybal in his introduction of the original SER proposal submitted for funding, and which still hold true, read:

"The masses of Spanish-Surnamed people in the United States have cultural value concepts which are distinct from those prevalent in the American urban society. In the past, these values have enabled this group to survive against tremendous odds and hardships. At present, its problems are arising from different value concepts which are now challenging its own. Many of these concepts are in direct contradiction to its own, and as basic as the meaning and the purpose of its own concept of life. Therefore, SER: personal value, strength of character, personal success, and faith in ultimate justice before God."

Thank you for reading the story of the small beginning of SER Jobs for Progress. Today, SER Jobs for Progress continues to serve hundreds of Hispanics throughout the entire nation, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Please visit the SER - Job for Progress National, Inc. Home Page.

If you have any comments in regards to this article or additional information in regards to the history of SER - Jobs for Progress, please let us know.

For more information, please contact SER National Office

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