Rudy Lozano, Jr. says his father championed three great causes - the rights of undocumented immigrants, political independence and Mexican American equality. Lozano Sr. was adept at finding the links between these and other struggles.
Lozano Sr. had activism in his DNA, his sister Emma Lozano said. They learned from their father, a metalworker and staunch union activist. They walked strike picket lines as children.
He and his future wife Lupe Lozano dated as teenagers and attended Harrison High School. They were swept up in the upsurge of the time and led a student walkout in 1970, demanding more Latino teachers and classes in Latino history.
They joined with others to fight for a new school in the Mexican American neighborhood.
"The old school was literally falling apart. The administration was doing nothing. So Rudy said, 'if you won't fix this one, we want a new one,'" said Emma Lozano, director of Centro Sin Fronteras. They led a movement that resulted in the construction of Benito Juarez High School.
Lozano was among the first wave of Mexican American students at the University of Illinois - Chicago. He led struggles for student diversity and multi-cultural curriculum. He led the establishment of the Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services Program (LARES).
After graduation Lozano helped found a local chapter of Center for Autonomous Social Action (CASA) that organized undocumented immigrant workers. Lozano was a pioneer in organizing undocumented workers into the labor movement.
"This work took him into the factories. And when he started organizing in the factories that took him into the homes," said Emma Lozano. "He saw people in fear that needed a voice."
At the time of his death, Lozano was the Midwest director for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union(ILGWU), known today as Workers United, and was organizing Tortillería del Rey, the biggest tortilla maker in Chicago.
He barely lost a bid for alderman in 1982, in what many believe was a stolen election.
Lozano played a key role building a strategic alliance between the Mexican American and African American communities that resulted in electing candidates in districts where together they shared a majority vote.
He was instrumental in forging a winning multi-racial coalition that resulted in the historic election of Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, and organizing the Mexican American community to support Washington.
His experience as a trade union organizer gave him a unique perspective on building multi-racial alliances. He fought to build ties with white workers and progressives overcoming racism and segregation between communities.
"This movement was recognized nationally. It's why a young Barack Obama was first attracted to Chicago. He wanted to find out more about it," said Rudy Jr.
Lozano was killed shortly after Washington was elected. Many are convinced the investigation into Lozano's death was deliberately bungled. Former mayor Richard Daley was states attorney at the time.
Rudy Lozano was very active in the Mexican-American community. He had been a primary organizer of the Near Westside Branch of the Independent Political Organization. Lozano had been a long time advocate of political coalitions among Hispanic, Black and the poor working class.
Supporting Harold Washington
Rudy Lozano played a big role in mobilizing Latino support for Harold Washington's 1983 campaign.
- In the predominantly Latino communities of Pilsen and Little Village, my father, the late Rudy Lozano was also a key ally in Washington’s labor-based coalition.
- He was also a community activist and decided to run for alderman in the 22nd Ward, a predominantly Mexican and Mexican American neighborhood. Although he narrowly lost, Lozano was a rising political star and leader that advocated for multi-racial coalitions and worker unity. He rallied and mobilized the Latino constituent base to vote for Washington.
- Lozano understood the need for Black, Latino and white working class unity, especially the importance of union solidarity among all workers including undocumented immigrant workers. Lozano’s independent and grassroots-based organizing, along with Washington’s mayoral victory, sparked a movement throughout Chicago’s Latino communities, which hardly had any representation in City Council. Washington’s victory galvanized the majority of the Latino electorate and soon new Latino leaders emerged as viable elected officials under his administration.
Harold Washington campaign committee
Harold Washington Transition Committee
Soviet cause celebre
Rudy Lozano, a union organizer and nascent politician, was little-known outside the Hispanic neighborhoods of Chicago`s Southwest Side where he was gunned down in his kitchen on June 8, 1983.
Two years later Lozano had become a cause celebre of the Soviet press, the hero of a lengthy three-part series in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda chronicling his days as community organizer and challenger to Chicago`s Democratic machine.
Pravda compared Lozano with Martin Luther King, Jr. and charged that he was the victim of political assassination.
The three articles on Rudy Lozano detailed his early work on behalf of undocumented aliens and his decision to seek a Chicago City Council seat. The series concludes, Just as Martin Luther King, the 30-year-old Lozano was killed when he was beginning to spread his wings.
All of Chicago`s affairs, Pravda argued, were ruled by the alliance of the corrupt politicians and Mafiosi whose unwritten law was `divide and reign.`
Through interviews with family and friends, Pravda recounted Lozano`s narrow defeat by incumbent regular Democrat Frank Stemberk in the 1983 aldermanic campaign in the 22d Ward.
Americans believe they live in the most democratic country in the world, Pravda said.
Actually, the bourgeois democracy gives the floor to verbal disputes, but only as long as this free thinking does not jeopardize the pillars of capitalism. If the masters of life consider somebody or something as threatening their vital interests, they ruthlessly crush the free thinker.
Then, in hard-boiled prose mimicking American detective fiction, Pravda said that while Lozano was adjusting himself to new heights, the bullets for the pistol that was to kill him were put into the magazine. The crime, Pravda stated emphatically, was planned by the Chicago rich who were afraid that trade union and political activity by Lozano could undermine their business.
A Cook County Circuit Court jury saw it differently. On May 10, 1984, an 18-year-old gang member, Gregory Escobar, was convicted of murdering Lozano. Prosecutors pointed to two possible motives. One is that Lozano allegedly owed $7,000 to Escobar`s cousin for drugs (Lozano`s family said he did not use drugs). The other is that Lozano employed members of a rival gang in his aldermanic campaign.
Paving the way for Obama
About 250 family, friends, colleagues and inspired young activists who gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago June 2008, 25 years after Rudy Lozano's murder at age 31, to celebrate his short but influential life.
Several speakers, including former state senator Jesus Garcia and Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), credited Lozano with fighting for improved education, labor reform and minority representation in city government. Many said he was a crucial ambassador in forging a relationship between Latino and black voters that helped elect Harold Washington as the city's first black mayor in 1983.
Ronelle Mustin, who was the chairman of Lozano's narrowly lost run for the 22nd Ward City Council seat that year, said Lozano's talent for uniting across racial lines would be equally valuable today.
"He would be able to pull together a coalition of blacks and Latinos as a strategic way to ensure the issues of health care, of immigrant rights come to the forefront as much as possible," Mustin said.
Richard Barnett, an aide on Washington's mayoral campaign, said it was people like Lozano who built the foundation for Barack Obama's historic run for the presidency.
"You have to have the grass-roots grunt work done, then you can have Barack Obama," Barnett said. "That grunt work was done by Rudy and other folks of that era. If you want something, you have to fight for it, and that was Rudy."
- PW, Rudy Lozano remembered as fighter for immigrant, worker rights, by: John Bachtell June 13 2013
- Harold Washington Oversight Committee: List of Members
- [https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1985-09-29-8503060126-story.html Chicago Tribune.SOVIETS TURN CHICAGO SLAYING TO WEAPON IN RIGHTS RHETORIC Thom Shanker, Chicago Tribune September 29 1985]
- Hundreds pay tribute to activist slain in 1983, Chicago Tribune , Rudy Lozano fought for minority interests and built consensus June 23, 2008|By Robert Mitchum