by Paul Ortiz
Stephen Coats, the longtime executive director of the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (US/LEAP) died suddenly on April 1 at 61 years old.
This is a terrible loss for the labor movement in the Americas, and it is only bearable because Stephen trained and fortified so many activists (including the writer) to carry on his work.
For decades, the terms “international labor solidarity” and Stephen Coats were virtually synonymous. As coordinator of the U.S./Guatemala Education Project (US/GLEP) during the 1990s, Stephen relentlessly kept U.S. labor activists apprised of the repression of labor and social justice activists in Guatemala and throughout Central America. Brother Coats taught us that the death of one labor organizer in Guatemala was a blow to the labor movement in the United States.
In the era of Reaganism and Thatcherism, US/GLEP taught consumers to see the connections between low prices in the U.S. and low wages in Latin America. In those days, companies like Old Navy, the Gap, and Starbucks scoffed when we used the term “corporate social responsibility.”