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Educators honor union activist and immigration reform champion Eliseo Medina

NEA President’s Award recognizes long-time fighter of workers’ rights

WASHINGTON - July 03, 2015 -

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García bestowed upon Eliseo Medina the NEA Presidents Award at the Associations annual Human and Civil Rights (HCR) Awards dinner on July 2 in Orlando, Florida. NEA has recognized and honored human and civil rights heroes at moving and inspiring awards gala since 1967. The theme of NEA HCR awards was, "Justice for All: Never Forget, Never Give Up", which recognizes those who have foughtand continue to fightfor social justice.

"For five decades, Eliseo Medina has championed workers rights and has fought for the dignity of working families", said Eskelsen García. "We celebrate and honor him because the struggle for social justice and, in particular, immigration reform continues today. He has motivated us to be purposeful, determined, and principled in thought and action. He's provided a positive vision for our country and he embodies what is right and just about our world, and he shows no signs of slowing down."

A social justice warrior and national labor leader, Medina, an immigrant from Mexico, worked alongside icon César Chávez with the United Farmer Workers. He later joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as an organizer, and eventually became the president of the SEIUs largest local union in San Diego. He was the first Mexican American to serve on SEIUs Executive Committee. As the organizations International Vice President, he led several major organizing drives in the southwest for SEIU.

"I am honored and humbled to receive the NEA Presidents Award, especially since this award comes from one of the strongest, most progressive, best looking, and important organizations in America", said Medina. "We are proud to call NEA our partner in our common struggle to create a more just and equitable society. Whether the fight is for the right to vote, NEA is here. Whether the fight is for immigrant rights, NEA is there. Whether the fight is to restore the middle class, NEA is there. Or whether the fight is for our children's future, NEA is always there leading the way to make sure that the American dream remains within reach of very American, whether native born or immigrant."

In 2013, Medina retired from SEIU to concentrate full time on getting Congress to act on immigration reform. He fasted for 31 days, sharing a small tent with protesters in a tent on the Washington Mall to shine a spotlight on the need for immigration reform. He then set out with activists on a national Fast for Families bus tour, visiting 75 congressional districts across the country, and sharing along the way the stories of those affected by the nations broken immigration system.

In a moving and powerful video, Mary Kay Henry and Lee Saunders, the presidents of SEIU and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, respectively, as well as NEA Executive Director John Stocks, echoed the sentiments expressed by Eskelsen Garca about the countless and unselfish acts of kindness demonstrated by Medina.

The annual HCR Awards Dinner was originally created by the American Teachers Association (ATA), which represented Black teachers in segregated schools. When NEA and ATA merged in 1966, NEA agreed to carry on this annual human and civil rights awards tradition. NEA members submit nominations for the annual awards, and nominations are reviewed by NEAs HCR Committee, making recommendations to the NEA Executive Committee, which determines the award recipients.

Photos of the NEA Presidents Award presentation can be viewed here and here.

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The National Education Association is the nations largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.



CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez, NEA Communications
(202) 822-7823,


NEA's 94th Representative Assembly