Wisconsin’s Lupe Martinez: Champion for Migrant Workers

Since arriving in Wisconsin as a migrant child, coming here because his farm worker family would follow the crops for work, Lupe Martinez has dedicated his life to helping migrant workers and the poor. Coming from migrant background himself, Martinez has seen the struggles of the migrant worker and understands their needs. Having that unique insight has given the CEO of the United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) the vision for finding ways to lessen the hardships migrant workers face in a very demanding and difficult industry.

For over 45 years Martinez has dedicated most of his professional career at UMOS advocating for farm workers and for employment, housing, education and other programs.

Martinez has served as president and CEO of UMOS for over 40 years.

In 1974 UMOS operated only in Wisconsin and focused only on migrant services. Today, UMOS offers various programs and services to diverse populations with a diverse staff. Currently, UMOS employs 300 people and operates 40+ programs with multi-million dollar grants and performance-based contracts from federal, state, and local funding sources.

UMOS operates programs in Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas as well.

Martinez serves on numerous boards. Among them, he is Chairman of the National Farmworker Alliance, and Chairman of MAFO, a national partnership of Farmworker and Rural organizations. Martinez, was honored with the Cesar Chavez Humanitarian Award, as well as the World Citizen Award from the International Institute of Wisconsin.

He also served on the board of the National Council of La Raza.

At the state level he’s served on the Wisconsin Council on Migrant Labor. He’s also president of the Wisconsin Migrant Coalition, comprised of agencies that serve farmworkers throughout the state.

Under his leadership UMOS started the Latina Resource Center, the first and only center that provides bilingual, bicultural  family violence and sexual assault support services for Hispanic women.

In a recent tribute to UMOS on its 50th anniversary, Congresswoman Gwen Moore said of Lupe Martinez during a session of Congress that “Mr. Martinez is dedicated to advocating and providing programs and services to improve employment, provide education opportunities as well as health and housing supports for UMOS’ clientele whether they are migrant and seasonal farm workers or other underserved populations. Lupe Martinez has always gravitated toward leadership roles even as a child; he was one of 10 siblings in a family of migrant workers and accepted the responsibility of paying bills and managing the family finances. Today he manages the largest Hispanic nonprofit organization in Wisconsin and one of the largest in the nation.”