Mónica Ramírez Guerrero '03 Wins OSU Thompson Award
|Mónica with presenter Linda Thomas Brooks of the OSUAA Board of Directors, and OSUAA president Archie Griffin|
On October 27, the Ohio State University Alumni Association (OSUAA) presented the William Oxley Thompson Award to Mónica Ramírez Guerrero ’03. Created to honor early career achievement, the award recognizes Mónica’s commitment to securing equal rights and protections for one of our nation’s most marginalized groups: migrant women workers.
Mónica knows well the difficulties faced by migrant workers—both her mother and father worked in the fields. “My mother’s family worked in the sugar beet and cucumber fields of Ohio,” says Mónica, “and my father’s family worked in the cotton fields of Mississippi. Their hard work and luck led them out of the fields and into mainstream America.”
Motivated by her family’s history, Mónica is committed to helping others struggling to make a living as migrant workers. She is focusing on advocacy for what she sees as the most oppressed group within this population: women. Frequently victimized by both farm managers and co-workers, and isolated by language, immigration status and economic constraints, women farm workers are ill-equipped to fight for their rights.
“Based on my experience as a farm worker advocate and through other research, I discovered that sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination are wide-spread problems affecting this population,” she says.
As early as her freshman year of college, she began working for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality where she remained for three summers. Work with Legal Services of Northwest Ohio followed. In 2002, Mónica worked as a law clerk with Farm Worker Legal Services of New York.
A prestigious post-graduate fellowship from Equal Justice Works and funding from the Florida Bar Foundation helped the Fremont, Ohio native create a program to address the unique needs of migrant women who have fallen victim to sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination in the fields.
Mónica’s hope was to use her experience in Florida to create a template that could be replicated by other farm worker advocates nationwide. That hope is being realized. Earlier this year, she joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Alabama, taking her project, now known as “Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative,” with her as part of the Center’s Immigrant Justice Program (IJP). With IJP support, Esperanza becomes a regional effort.
The goals of Esperanza, which means “hope” in Spanish, include informing the public about the widespread problem of workplace gender discrimination, educating immigrant women about their rights, and litigating gender discrimination cases against companies breaking the law.
“Every person deserves to go to work in a place that is free from harassment,” Mónica says. “We will not tolerate rape, discrimination, or any form of harassment in the workplace or any place. We’re living in a time when anti-immigrant sentiment runs high, and we need to band together to spread this message.”
The Center’s efforts will not be limited to farm worker women, but will address gender discrimination of low-wage immigrant women in other labor forces as well, including hotel and service industries and meat-packing plants.
Mónica honed her strong organizational and leadership skills at Moritz. She served as 2003 president of the Moritz Student Bar Association. She organized a number of successful service projects while president and demonstrated an unusual ability to delegate and cultivate leadership skills among her peers. At graduation, Dean Nancy H. Rogers and Lou Ann Moritz presented her with the 2003 Moritz Leadership Award.
Mónica’s tireless efforts to protect immigrant women from sexual harassment and discrimination have focused national attention on a problem long in need of a solution. Her commitment and dedication make us proud, and make her a most deserving recipient of the William Oxley Thompson Award.
To offer your congratulations to Mónica, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.