You can call me Willie, everyone will know who you are talking about. I was in both the strike and the film. And it’s been in my mind my whole life. My mother took me and my brother to the strike from Santa Rita. I was about 5 years-old, and I rode in the same car as Rachel Valencia who was fourteen years old at the time, my brother Salvador, and my mom Camerina. Corina Rivera drove us. I remember going and playing with the rest of the kids at the top of the hill and seeing the picket line. Some time during the summer after the women took over the picket line, the police showed up, the law enforcement, and starting picking up ladies and putting them in cars, so the kids started running down. The police grabbed me and threw me in the car, but I didn’t see my mom; we got separated. Sometimes I get flashbacks of being in the crowded cell in the back, and we ran out of air back there, the kids, so we would almost pass out. They had to move us to the front of the cell so we wouldn’t pass out. That’s how crowded it was. A few days later, I can’t really remember how many, but I got reunited with my mother. The ladies took care of me. Now, a lot of them are passed. I remember thinking about my mom being arrested. I remember the men couldn’t strike, so that’s why the women were out there. Even at that age, my dad and Gilbert Ramirez’s dad wanted both of us to be strong union members. The union made benefits better and the wages better and stuff like that.
When they made the film, I remember the jail was a burned down building that they converted into a jail. The locations were different in the film. Everybody knew each other and Clinton Jencks, was a supporting character. Everybody liked him. I was a little older than 6 at that time. I didn’t have a choice to be in the film. My mom took me. Then I grew up and went to Vietnam and came back to work, and now I get asked to be a supervisor.
The union hall, in my opinion, having been involved in that, there’s a mural on the wall, but honestly, I think it’s too late to save that hall. Instead, make a statue of a lady standing tall and holding a boy and a girl in her hands. There’s a piece of land that is closer to where the strike took place, the Santa Rita shrine, where we have a spot for it. We need to honor my mom and the women and the children that were involved. The deserve all of the recognition. It’s overdue. They can’t do anything to it. It’s the ideal place for a statue, so people can stop and see it. I still respect the ladies that were striking. I give them a lot of credit. Maybe someone can make that statue.
Willie and other children jailed