Dear Friends,


RUSTY COSTANZA / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Officials with the City of Gretna, day laborers, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Congress of Day Laborers gather for a ribbon cutting for a tented area under the West Bank Expressway for day laborers to go while looking for work in Gretna on Saturday, January 29, 2011.

We live in hard times and the odds seem against us.  But it’s still possible to win dignity and respect for day laborers and all immigrant workers through the sheer power of organizing.  Across the U.S., day laborer centers are under attack.  But on Saturday, January 30, 2011, the City of Gretna, Louisiana, inaugurated a new day laborer center even in the midst of the racist and anti-immigrant sentiment of the region and the nation. The victory was a major reversal of power and a result of over six months of organizing.  It was also a lesson that organized workers can inspire a city to act on principles of inclusion, opportunity, and access for all.

In early 2010, the City Council of Gretna proposed an an ordinance that would criminalize day laborers.  The Congress of Day Laborers successfully won public opinion:


Six months later, the Congress of Day Laborers turned crisis into opportunity.  Not only did we beat back the criminalization ordinance, we negotiated successfully with the Mayor of Gretna to open the first-ever day laborer area in the region, funded by the City, and supported by the police and City Council:



In the current political climate, this represents a ray of hope.  The day laborer center will be a gathering space and a space to organize.  But also represents a broad consensus we were able to organize in Gretna around the idea that strong economies can be based on inclusion, not exclusion — and that public safety means everyone’s safety, including the safety of day laborers.  The Mayor of Gretna stood up at the inauguration publicly committed to the Congress of Day Laborers that the center was the beginning of a dialogue, not the end — and he committed to working on police abuse issues and wage theft. The mayor vowed to make Gretna a “model community” in partnership with day laborers.

Thank you to all those who supported this effort!

In solidarity

Saket Soni
New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice

Workplace Project fights for Latino immigrants on Long Island

By Samantha Eng (Posted in Long Island News Report)
January 24, 2011

Through several important initiatives including training programs for immigrants, language education and workers’ rights courses, The Workplace Project works to end the exploitation of Latino immigrant workers.

Founded in 1992 in Hempstead, Long Island, the Workplace Project fights for socioeconomic justice and has strengthened workers rights for Latino immigrants by promoting their full political and economic participation within their communities.

Latino immigrants face many obstacles on Long Island. Aside from the exploitation many of them face on the job, there is also a perception that these workers are responsible for displacing natural citizens from employment.

“This wrong idea that immigrant workers are here to keep the jobs that other people deserve,” said Omar Angel Perez, Executive Director of The Workplace Project, in addressing his goal to fight this misconception.

Training and Outreach

Worker training includes, lessons on taxes and bank accounts, immigration law, discrimination, housing rights, and specialized on the job training.

“Through the Women’s Cooperatives Program, we do outreach to woman who clean households, and we invite them to come, and they get training to do on the job,” said Perez.

Other works include the day laborer program, where workers are educated on how to negotiate a salary, a service contract, and what financial records to keep.

The Workplace Project encourages day laborers and domestic help to join with community members and other immigrants to ensure they are not abused or discriminated against while employed.

“They don’t have the right training to do the job or they don’t get special machines,” said Perez. “We face a lot of problems like injuries and accidents,” he said.

The Workplace Project recruits members by going out into local churches and schools, as well as working with Spanish-speaking media.

“The women’s cooperative member go out and talk to the women on the street, talk to the women outside their workplaces,” said Perez. But they successfully target males as well. “With day laborers, we go directly to the corner and give them flyers, with their permission, about their position and what to do when they have any problem,” he said.

Omar has more to say in the following interview:

Click here to view the embedded video.Legislative Action

The efforts of the Workplace Project have resulted in both local and state legislation to protect all workers, not just immigrants. Members of UNITY, a domestic housecleaning cooperative became strong supporters of legislation and worked to get a law passed in Nassau County. This legislation requires that employment agencies give domestic workers contract forms and notices of their rights, like facts about the minimum wage, overtime regulations and Social Security.

Not satisfied with their local recognition, The Workplace Project pressed on for a statewide law. On August 31, 2010 Governor David Paterson signed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights
This law will provide the same rights to domestic workers as are provided to other workers in New York State. The bill became law on November 29, 2010.

“The next step is to be sure that these laws are going to be implemented,” said Perez. The group is on a six year campaign seeking enforcement of this law and to ensure that the law also covers other groups, such as day laborers and low- wage workers.

“We’re not just talking about immigrant workers,” Perez said. “We’re talking about protection for all workers of the state.”

Their message to lawmakers is simple: the repression of day laborers and other domestic assistants seeking employment is counterproductive. They cite a Hofstra University Study, conducted in conjunction with Long Island Day Laborers, indicating an increase in human rights violations.

“If we can get more protection for low-wage workers, it will help increase wages for all the workers,” said Perez.

His group is also trying to ensure that those who employ immigrants will follow the new laws.

“We have been in touch with some employers who are good employers and they follow the rules, they follow the law, and they know that workers, immigrants or not, deserve good wages.”

Looking Ahead

Perez knows The Workplace Project will be a vital link between the economy and those who perform many of its necessary services.

“The immigrant community contributes a lot to the Long Island economy, and without the immigrant community and this labor force, the economy on Long Island could fall,” said Perez.

Empowering and protecting immigrant worker rights remains an ongoing goal for Perez, but so too is fighting the perception that immigrants somehow threaten the Long Island livelihood.

“We want Long Islanders to understand that the immigrant community is part of the larger community of Long Island, he said. ”

Reporter: Phil Hecken

Additional Reporting: Christal Roberts

Copy Editor: Amanda Thurshwell

Video: Bob Doda

Herndon City Council Revisits Discriminatory Day Laborer Restrictions

Herndon City Council Revisits Discriminatory Day Laborer Restrictions

by Prerna Lal (Posted in
January 24, 2011 | 6:00 AM (PT)

Herndon City Council Revisits Discriminatory Day Laborer Restrictions Once upon a time, Herndon, a small town in Virginia, could no longer tolerate the sight of Latino men soliciting jobs in public places.

It made an ordinance, specifically forbidding day laborers from finding jobs. The law was nothing more than an ugly and xenophobic attempt to get rid of the Latinos on the sidewalk looking for work. A Fairfax County judge rightly struck it down as unconstitutional.

Herdon did not learn its lesson. At a time when unemployment is soaring through the roof, Herndon would rather prevent people from finding jobs and making ends meet. The outgoing city council moved to enact a broader ordinance, banning all solicitation on streets and sidewalks. The result? Now cheerleaders, non-profit fundraisers by community groups, and panhandlers are banned from soliciting money, too.

The law continues to quash free speech with the sole intent of discriminating against mostly Latino laborers seeking day-to-day employment. Indeed, the original draft of the ordinance proposed to “eliminate the visual blight of Latino workers.” This has not set well with some Herndon residents who complain that the measure is anti-immigrant and has nothing to do with the public safety concerns raised by its proponents.

Virginia New Majority and the National Day Laborer National Network (NDLON) are some of the organizations working on rescinding the bill. The organizations have already threatened to file suit against the city if it does not amend or abolish the ordinance.

The incoming city council is open to reviewing and amending the bill so that it passes constitutional muster in a court of law. Restore sanity in Herndon. Ask the City Council to end the restrictions against day laborers.

Prerna Lal is co-founder and Online Coordinator of DreamActivist and a board member of Immigration Equality. She is currently attending George Washington University Law School.

Day Laborer Center Gives Back to Community

Day Laborer Center Gives Back to Community

Day Worker Center of Mountain View spent MLK Jr. day out on the streets picking up litter.
January 18, 2011
By Nicole Baldocchi | Mountain View Patch

Day Laborer Center Gives Back to Community

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, instead of taking the day off, the Day Worker Center members picked up litter off the street. Credit Nicole Baldocchi

Dreams, community and giving back are all things that came to mind for the workers at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day yesterday.

Escuela Avenue and Castro Street became two of the major areas the workers canvassed as they picked up litter on Jan. 17, 2011, the 25th anniversary of the national holiday that Congress designated a national day of service in 1994.

Outside of the center, people slowly gathered to support the effort of the laborers.

Doug Albercht, a Mountain View resident, said he had the day off work and wanted to help the center’s efforts.

“I like to volunteer now and then,” Albercht said. “I learned about community service programs around the world through a church group and this was something nearby I could do.”

The Day Worker Center of Mountain View, located at 113 Escuela Avenue, provides the day laborer community in Mountain View and surrounding cities a place to find work and gain skills, such as English classes, CPR and First Aid training, computer classes and more, according to Executive Director María Marroquín.

“The workers, even though they don’t have a lot of material to give, they want to give back with themselves,” she said.

The center has cleaned up litter in Mountain View on the holiday for the last three years and gives back throughout the year, according to Marroquín. They also help with the community garden on Escuela Avenue, donate blood, assemble desks at Mountain View schools among other things.

“We can say we’re ‘on call’ for the community,” said Marroquín with a smile.

On Monday, about 20 of the center’s members volunteered and some brought their children to help.

Alma Cruz, 15, a sophomore at Gunn High School studied for her finals before the trash-pickup began. Her mom had been successfully placed with a job through the center that lasted a few months but now has begun to look for work again every day.

“I’m volunteering because I think it’s important to help the community just like they’re helping us maintain and keep this center,” Cruz said.

The center has been housed at several different locations; the most recent was a church on Mercy Street. The center moved to its Escuela Avenue home in November.

“After 14 years, we have our own home now,” said Marroquín.

The center sees about 80-90 laborers each day, which gets placed on a list and gains work based on that list.  Each worker finds work an average of once a week at a job site but often get more work in the warmer months, explained Marroquín. Employers seek help for anything from construction and gardening to cleaning and babysitting.

Nine years ago before he came to the center, Jose Vega looked for work outside on El Camino Real and San Antonio Road.

Now, he comes to the center every day where he gets “protection from the cold” and “follows rules” that look good to employers.

Vega volunteered out on the streets yesterday.

“We try to make the city look nice. We want the people to see the difference,” he said. “The city gives us permits and help to stay here. This is very, very good.”

(Source: Mountain View Patch)