Organized Labor Marches for “Day of the Salvadoran Unionist”

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On October 31, 1989, a bomb tore through the headquarters of the FENASTRAS labor federation in the heart of San Salvador, killing nine iconic union leaders including Secretary General Febe Elizabeth Velásquez and injuring dozens more. Ever since, El Salvador’s labor movement has honored those martyred by commemorating their heroic struggle for the rights of the working class, and this year was no different: on Saturday, the streets of downtown San Salvador filled with hundreds of organized workers in celebration of the “Day of the Salvadoran Unionist.”

“With that bomb, the Right tried to silence the people, however, we continue the struggle for our labor rights,” said Wilfredo Berrios of the Salvadoran Social and Union Front (FSS) to the gathered crowd. 

The diverse coalitions that comprise the United Social Movement and Union Coordinating Committee (CUSS), including the FSS, brought together public and private sector workers unions, organized street vendors, agricultural cooperatives and allied communities in a massive march through the capital city. Accompanied by several student marching bands, the procession began at the site of the bombing and closed with remarks from CUSS representatives at Cuscatlán Park. Social movement leaders called for dignified employment and respect for labor rights. 

This year, the leftist government also chose to pay homage to the FENASTRAS martyrs with the release of commemorative stamps: “We want to end this year with the release of postage stamps that help to recognize the work of women in Salvadoran society and to be able to eradicate violence against women, and what better example than our beloved Febe Elizabeth Velásquez, who is remembered as a great leader of the National Union Federation of Salvadoran Workers (FENASTRAS) and who was murdered along with other unionists; we can describe her as a person with political and  ideological clarity, committed to change and to the interests of this country’s poorest people,” said Margarita Quintanar, Director of the Salvadoran Postal Service. 

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