Board of Directors
Salvador (Chava) Bustamante
Chava is the executive director
Salvador Bustamante (Chava) has worked to promote labor, human and civil rights for Latino immigrants in California for over 40 years.
Chava is presently retired but for the past 6 years he has contributed his time working as a full-time volunteer Executive Director for Latinos United for a New America a.k.a. LUNA, which he helped to found. Before helping to found LUNA, he was the First Vice President of Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877, where he worked for over 19 years.
Chava has a lifelong history of committing himself to union development but he was also one of the few union leaders who focused his work on building bridges between unions and the community.
His work with the community has included work with the United Farm Workers, California Rural Legal Assistance, Mental Health Advocacy Project, Economic and Social Opportunities, Catholic Charities Legalization Project and SEIU Local 1877. In all these capacities, he has promoted leadership development, community access to social services, civic participation and community empowerment.
Salvador has also been active in many successful community campaigns that have assisted working families in their struggles to survive such as the Justice for Janitors campaign, Healthy Kids Initiative, and the Living Wage Ordinance and Just Cause in the city of San Jose.
Salvador has promoted the leadership development of many immigrant labor leaders as well as community members. Through his work, he has promoted the economic stability of many immigrant families who have been able to participate in several campaigns for economic and social justice through his leadership and support.
Chava is also a fellow with the American Leadership Forum (Class XVIII) and has served on the board of several non-profit organizations like Working Partnerships USA (WPUSA), Silicon Valley Raising (SVR) and Sacred Heart Community Service.
Michelle is from Ecuador, South America. She has written several bestselling social studies books and textbooks throughout South America. She is a political analyst for Russia TV (RTTV) on issues related with Militarization and Human Rights. On March 2016, Michelle was granted the Beacon of Light Award from the Office of Immigrant Relations from the Santa Clara County and received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for advocating for immigrant rights and for her collaboration to the community and the arts. Michelle is fluent in English, Spanish, German and Italian.
Alfonso Mendez was born in Apatzingán, Michoacán, México. At the age of 16 Alfonso moved to California in 1975. For the following three years he worked as an irrigator in the fields around, Wasco, CA in the Central Valley. In 1978 he moved to the East side of San Jose, where he eventually bought a house and raised his family. Alfonso became involved in community work out of concern to provide a healthy and safe environment for his children. Presently he is a co-coordinator of the chapter leadership committee. Some of Alfonso’s responsibilities include facilitating committee meetings, acting as MC in community meetings, and being a spokesperson for LUNA with politicians and elected leaders and members of the media.
Born in Aguililla, Mexico, Baltazar Barron migrated to the U.S. in 1969 and became a citizen in 2010. Working as a janitor for IBM in 1976, Baltazar noted how far beneath the wages of other IBM workers those of janitors were. He organized fellow janitors into a union, leading them on strikes and marches in the early days, serving as shop steward, and negotiating fair labor contracts, as a member of the union’s executive board. Baltazar believes the Latino community must have good leadership, and co-founded Comite Cesar Chavez to develop such leadership in the style of Cesar Chavez. Baltazar understands that one’s vote can profoundly change one’s community. In recognition of that potential, he is a founding member of LUNA and a member of its board.
Maria fled the war in El Salvador in 1980. The 7th child of a peasant family, she cleaned houses and cared for elderly individuals. With a third grade education, opportunities were limited until she became a unionized janitor for Macy’s in 1987. That sparked a passion for union organizing. In her first year on the job, she became the union steward. She has been an activist in the Justice for Janitors Campaign, and was an elected member of the Executive Board of SEIU-UHWW from 2000 to 2014 when she retired. She has worked countless campaigns to convince Latino immigrants to be involved in the civic and political processes of this country and their community.
Omar Vasquez, nació en la selva Amazonas de Perú, en un pueblo llamado Bagua. Emigró a EEUU en 1996 a la edad de 16 años. Terminó high school en San José, CA y trabajaba mientras estudiaba. Se casó a los 19 años y tiene una hermosa hija llamada, Ariana Vasquez. Después de trabajar tanto y ver que su calidad de vida no mejoraba, Omar empezó a cuestionar si el sueño americano era una realidad o un idea fabricada. Un día, una amiga le invitó a una junta para discutir los temas que nos afectan a los Latinos y la posibilidad de crear una organización para trabajar en esos temas. “Al llegar noté que habían ocho a nueve locos queriendo cambiar las cosas por medio de la participación cívica,” dijo Omar. Pero decidió quedarse porque todo lo que decían tenía sentido. Así fue como empezó a creer que no se trata de aislarte y trabajar y trabajar. Se trata de la participación colectiva para cambiar las cosas que no nos dejan avanzar. “Quiero un mejor futuro para mi hija, pero también quiero un mejor futuro para mi,” dice Omar.
Originally from Monterey County, Jorge’s experience in community service started early on as a graduate, employee, and then Board Member of the non-profit Community Partnership for Youth (CPY). Growing up with a single mother and facing unique challenges Jorge greatly benefited from programs like CPY dedicated to helping people and families like his. Jorge moved to San José in 2015 for work and also enrolled in school while serving on student government at San José City College. In his passion to learn more about government, Jorge started to volunteer and attend District 5 meetings and events for Councilmember- then Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco to both, better understand the impact and inner workings of local government, but also to gain valuable work experience related to his pursuit of a degree in Political Science. In the fall of 2017 after 13 years in a retail and customer service job, Jorge earned a spot as a student intern for Councilmember Carrasco’s office and most recently in the fall of 2018 was able to take over a full-time vacancy. With valuable life skills learned, the desire to serve others, and an important set of standards to live by, Jorge became involved in community service through local non-profit organizations such as Latinos United for a New America (LUNA) serving communities in the East Side of San José and working to improve the lives of the residents. In 2015 while completing community service hours for school and after taking several courses at SJCC that showed Jorge that power of community and people to make a difference through small community collectives, particularly in what were traditionally farming communities, Jorge was impressed by the grass roots organization of LUNA and the determination and tenacity if its members. After a couple years as a member, in 2018 Jorge joined the Board of Directors for LUNA where he continues to learn and grow alongside his community. Jorge has learned to embrace the idea that “it takes a village tor raise a child,” and that “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.” Jorge is also open to the idea that the some of the change we are fighting for may not come to fruition, but respects and admires those who have been fighting for the same causes over the course of decades and even centuries.