Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

By: Ed Langlois, Staff Writer | 12/13/2011 | Source:

Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois. During Guadalupe procession by day laborers, search Jesus Sanchez carries statue while Paul Riek, Matt Cato and Francisco Aguirre sing.

In the corner of a former Northeast Portland garage, day laborers on Dec. 12 lovingly pieced together a shrine with a two-foot-tall statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One worker with rough hands gently slipped a rose into a soda bottle and placed the flower beside the image, one of the most important symbols in Latin American Catholicism.

“It’s a very special day. It’s like my heart,” 29-year-old Marcos Alvares said through a translator.

A native of Michoacan, Alvares recalls celebrating the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a boy — songs in a splendid church at midnight, steaming cups of cocoa and trays full of sweets. On this Guadalupe day, 17 years after he came to the U.S., he’s happy to huddle for warmth with other men hoping to be hired for manual labor.

Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

Laborers sing as they march past a neighborhood store in Northeast Portland.

Alvares, a member of St. Anne Parish in Gresham, once owned a small construction company. He would drive to this same tidy little garage — the VOZ Worker Center — to pick up laborers. After the crash of the economy and the failure of his business, Alvares himself is in need of work.

More than a dozen workers braved raw cold in the early morning Dec. 12 and processed for a mile with the statue, singing traditional songs in honor of Mary. On busy Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., curious motorists stared. One pedestrian, a young woman in a long wool coat, stopped and smiled as the men streamed past.

At Southeast 6th and Ankeny, a corner where laborers once waited for jobs before the center opened a few blocks away in 2008, the men waved to bicyclists and wished the riders “Buenos Dias.” The marchers invited a group at a nearby bus stop to join in the walk and return to the VOZ Worker Center for Mass and a plate of tamales.

Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

Juan Sop plays guitar as Angel Bueno sings during day laborer Guadalupe procession.

One of the walkers was Angel Bueno, 40. He comes to the center every day and sometimes is hired. On other days, he waits in vain until sundown. On those bad days, he says, he prays to Our Lady of Guadalupe for comfort and aid.

“Since I was a child, I’ve believed Our Lady of Guadalupe is very special,” says the mustached Bueno, a hood pulled over his baseball cap. “She helps me in my daily life.”

On occasion, groups of men would slip away from the singing to meet an arriving truck, an employer in need of help. Those left behind waved to their friends and wished them luck, all the while praying their number would come up soon.

VOZ is funded in part by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which parishioners support with a collection each November. A committee of laborers helps lead the center, located in a small lot on the corner of Northeast MLK and Everett.

Matt Cato, director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, marched and sang with the workers in the morning frost. Cato is aware that city officials have extended the Worker Center lease, but that VOZ organizers would prefer more stability.

“The hope is to convince the city to give them permanence here,” Cato says.

Latinos Get Little Thanks For Rebuilding New Orleans

Latinos Get Little Thanks For Rebuilding New Orleans

by Richard Gonzales | December 10, 2011 | Source:

Part of a monthlong series

Latinos Get Little Thanks For Rebuilding New Orleans

Day laborer Yohanni Castillo from Honduras waits for work outside a Lowes home improvement store in New Orleans. Jobs are drying up, he says, and he hasn't worked in four days. Even when work does comes along, he says, he doesn't always get paid.

Since Katrina, the Hispanic population in the New Orleans metro area has skyrocketed by more than 33,000 people. That’s a 57-percent increase in the past decade, much higher than the national average.

They came for the construction jobs — and they’ve chosen to stay. Often, you can find about a dozen Latino men hanging out near a home improvement store looking for work near a mostly black neighborhood.

Yohanni Castillo, 38, a carpenter from Honduras, says he’s been here since the early days of Katrina.

“Carpentry, demolitions, any kind of construction,” he says. But lately, he says there’s been less work available.

Castillo says the main problem is that employers want workers who have the papers to prove they’re here legally. Right after Katrina, no one really cared. The other problem, he says, is that sometimes he doesn’t get paid the wages he’s been promised.

And everybody here can tell you the same story, Castillo says, because it’s happened to everyone.

‘Hurricane Chasers’

Demographer Alison Plyer says the Hispanic influx since Katrina should surprise no one.

“There’s actually a phenomena demographers call ‘hurricane chasers,’ where, whenever there’s a hurricane in Florida or along the Gulf Coast, Latinos will go because they know there will be debris removal work and home repair work, and then they assume that they will stay just a little while and they will go somewhere else,” Plyer says. “But here that work lasted for several years and so folks stayed.”

It’s common to hear the immigrants say they know they played a major role in rebuilding the city when no one else would do the dirty work. Jordan Shannon is the spokesperson for Puentes, an advocacy group that formed following Hurricane Katrina.

“The city really owes a debt that it is not always so quick to acknowledge, but it nevertheless has really been rebuilt on the back of Latino labor,” Shannon says.

Of course, not everyone agrees.

David Stroder, an unemployed African-American dishwasher, says there’s no denying there’s some resentment in the black community here towards Latinos.

“They don’t like the fact that they’re coming in and taking all the jobs. Just like me, I’m trying to find a job, but I don’t build houses though. I can’t do that. If I could do that, I’d be making some money!” he says.

‘A Future In The U.S.’

But the work can bring some Latino immigrants closer to the attention of immigration authorities. Just last August about 30 workers were gathered in the parking lot of an apartment complex in nearby Kenner, La. They had just wrapped up a job raising the elevation of several homes.

“These workers spent two weeks of hard work and were expecting to get paid,” says Jacinta Gonzalez, an organizer for a group called the Congress of Day Laborers. She says collectively the workers in Kenner were owed over $100,000.

“Instead of getting paid, they had a raid. Immigration Enforcement had coordinated with three law enforcement agencies,” Gonzalez says. “This happened on Aug. 29, 2011, the anniversary of Katrina.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans confirmed that ICE detained several individuals that day as part of an investigation of the company, Louisiana Home Elevations. Its owner and an employee have been charged with seven counts of harboring undocumented immigrants and money laundering.

Latinos Get Little Thanks For Rebuilding New Orleans

Methodist Pastor Oscar Ramos conducts English classes for Latino immigrants in New Orleans. The majority of the immigrants say they arrived after Katrina to work in construction and intend to stay.

Despite the pressure from ICE, many New Orleans immigrants say they intend to hang on.

On a recent workday night in a local Methodist church, about 40 immigrants were attending English classes. The pastor, Oscar Ramos, called for a show of hands as he asked a series of questions. How many people arrived after Katrina?

Everyone raised their hand. How many have worked in rebuilding the city? A majority. Then he asked: How many people have been ripped off? Not paid the money they earned? Virtually every hand shoots up.

Later, Hugo Torres, a 37-year-old construction worker, says it happens because they’re undocumented. But then he says he doesn’t begrudge Americans who say he has no right to stay in New Orleans.

“I mean, the word undocumented, I do understand that. I mean, what part of the word undocumented we don’t understand? Of course, undocumented means undocumented. I do understand, but,” Torres says with a sigh, “with all this violence in Latin America like in Mexico and Central America, it is very difficult to live there. And I think the only way where we can see a future is in the United States.”

But what no one can yet say is how long New Orleans will see its future in these new immigrants.

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Facility is culmination of four years of community organizing.

By Frank Klimko | Source:

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Pedro DeLeon, try 50, one of the workers, said he was glad the center was opening. Credit: Anita Klimko

Organizers on Saturday opened the Centreville Labor Resource Center, an expansive facility that will provide an in-door gathering point for day laborers while they wait for jobs—getting them off the street.

The center is a culmination of a four-year effort by the Centreville Immigration Forum to provide the workers with a safe place to wait other than out-of-doors near the Centreville Regional Library. The center is in the Centreville Square Shopping Center, in a space donated by plaza owner and developer Albert J. Dwoskin, a longtime supporter of the center.

“This is a miracle that we were able to get this done,” said Ed Duggan, a Centreville real estate agent and member of the forum’s board of directors. “I’m sympathetic to a guy who will cross thousands of miles just for the chance to stand outside in the winter looking for a job.”

About 75 people attended the ribbon-cutting on Saturday, which was meant to show off the space to the community before it opens for business on Monday. In the crowd were a handful of the day laborers who will be using the center. Many of the workers are handy at remodeling and helped renovate the office space, said center Director Shani Moser, of Vienna.

It is privately funded and receives no public money, unlike other day labor centers, Moser said. The center will not set minimum rates for wages, which will ultimately be negotiated between the worker and his potential employer, she said.

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey (right) with a volunteer at the ribbon cutting. Credit: Anita Klimko

The creation of the center has been met with criticism from some in the community. Dwoskin, of McLean, said he was glad that the organizers were able to see the project to fruition.

“Sometimes you are going to cause a little friction when you are trying to do something good,” Dwoskin said. “The ones who showed the real courage are the volunteers who saw this through. This is an example of a community coming together to do the right thing.”

It will be open from 6 a.m. until noon Monday through Saturday. Workers will sign up for jobs by specialty, many are expert drywallers or painters, and will be hired on a first-come basis by area companies who need the help. There will also be a general worker category.

Organizers anticipate that eventually about 40-60 workers a day will use the center. Centreville is home to a tight-knit community of about a total of 100-150 day laborers, most of whom are drawn from the same impoverished, rural section of Guatemala. As workers and employers learn about the center, organizers hope that the practice of hiring day laborers from the street will fade away.

Pedro DeLeon, 50, one of the workers, said he was glad the center was opening. “We are really excited and happy about it,” said DeLeon, a painter. “It will give us a safe place and will also give the contractors a safe place to hire us.”

Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey (R), a longtime advocate of the center, saw the opening as a win-win situation.

“It will eliminate the concerns of the workers who said they were sometimes treated unfairly,” Frey said, “and it will get them off the streets—which was a serious safety concern for the community,”

Helping the 99 percent — with less | La Raza Centro Legal

La Raza Centro Legal fights to address the issues raised by Occupy, and it needs support

OPINION – La Raza Centro Legal, an organization central to the empowerment of San Francisco’s low-wage immigrant workers, there finds common cause with the Occupy movement during a time when our programs combining legal services and worker organizing are in jeopardy. Our hour of need falls within a window of tough times, but heightened political awareness, and we are calling out to the community to join us in solidarity as members of the 99 percent.

La Raza’s resonance with Occupy shows on a bilingual sign printed for the movement. Under a day laborer’s face, the sign reads, “We are the 99 percent. I’m blamed for the economic crisis, but what about the Wall Street banks?” Immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in government services, generate revenue exceeding the services they receive, subsidize the Social Security system, and provide labor that supports entire industries.

Contrary to the red herring propaganda generated by the 1 percent, the scapegoated low-wage immigrant worker is not the cause of the financial crisis in the United States. Occupy has resuscitated public discourse with the plain facts of shocking economic inequity and the corruption of our democracy. Immigration debate can now rise to the surface after nearly drowning in the lies that spawned the recent legal abominations in Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia.

In the current political and economic climate, immigrant rights organizations face an intractable three-pronged challenge: dangerous policies born of anti-immigrant zeal, a crushing economic crisis that disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, and dwindling funds from the government and foundations that used to support our work. The Obama administration’s Orwellian-named “Se Communities” deportation program creates an unprecedented stream of profits for privately contracted immigration detention facilities rife with human rights abuses. At the same time, employers take advantage of job scarcity to exploit low-wage immigrant workers. On the same days that our advocacy and services are needed more than ever, we’ve receive news that a grant that we depend on will not be renewed in the coming year.

Just like so many other members of the 99 percent, La Raza Centro Legal is in financial crisis. If the organization cannot find immediate support, some of La Raza’s programs that help so many people in the immigrant community could die. If La Raza is diminished, who will reunite a family unjustly torn apart, or take an employer to task for ripping off a day laborer so that the worker can feed his children? Who will organize the community so that, through La Raza’s Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective, low-wage immigrant workers can find their voice and build their own innate capacity for leadership in their community?

We aren’t giving up. Because the Occupy movement has pushed into public consciousness the well-established but long-ignored truth of how the status quo is hurting us all, it offers incredible hope. An October 20 community meeting kicked off a new fundraising drive for La Raza. San Franciscans and the city must join us in solidarity to help us find ways to support community nonprofits in declining economies and increasing civil rights abuses — which is when they are needed most.

Kate Hegé and Kate Deeny work in the Workers’ Rights Program at La Raza Centro Legal. For more information about how to help, contact Genevie Gallegos, Executive Director of La Raza Centro Legal at

Labor Resource Center To Open Dec. 5

By Bonnie Hobbs | Wednesday, patient November 16, s 2011 | Source:

For a long time, members of the Centreville Immigration Forum have worked to provide a safe place where the community’s day laborers could connect with employers to find jobs. It would take the laborers off the streets by the library and ping centers and make sure they’d be paid fairly for an honest day’s work.

And now, the once-distant vision of CIF President Alice Foltz, the CIF members and local day laborers is finally reaching fruition. The Centreville Labor Resource Center will open for business Monday, Dec. 5.

“It’s an exciting time and the fulfillment of a dream,” said Foltz. “This shows that problems can be resolved if people work together with open minds and open hearts.”

The center is at 5956 Centreville Crest Lane, beside Brick Pizza, on the lower level of the Centreville Square Shopping Center. It faces Route 29 and the Route 28 on-ramp. It’ll be open Monday-Saturday, from 6 a.m.-noon. CIF volunteers will participate in the day-to-day operation, under the guidance of a full-time, professional director, Shani Moser.

“I want this to be a place of confidence, security and stability that becomes part of the daily routine for the immigrant community,” she said. “I also want to show the [Centreville] community the benefit of having this center and that their support is well-founded.”

Al Dwoskin, who owns the Centreville Square Shopping Center, initially proposed the idea for the center, donated one of his storefronts for it and will pay for utilities. Funding for salaries and other items comes from grants and private donations.

Two upcoming events will introduce it to the public:

* Friday, Dec. 2, from 4-7 p.m. – Open House for tenants of Centrewood Plaza and Centreville Square businesses. CIF members will host the event, serve refreshments and greet the businesspeople who stop by. Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) will speak at 4:30 p.m. For more information about the CIF, go to

* Saturday, Dec. 3, from noon-4 p.m. – Open House for the community, with refreshments and a ribbon-cutting at noon. Frey and other local leaders will be on hand at 2 p.m.

For more information, call the center at 571-278-1961 or e-mail

Jornaleros hispanos dan vida al ‘Café Chicago’

Se trata de una cooperativa que importa café orgánico de Nicaragua.

Por Agencia EFE | 2011-11-01 | Source: La Raza

Café. Foto: Archivo archivo

Café. Foto: Archivo archivo

Chicago (EFE) – Un grupo de jornaleros latinos ha creado Café Chicago, mind una cooperativa que importa café orgánico de Nicaragua, lo procesa y vende de manera creativa y exitosa para mejorar sus condiciones laborales, económicas y sociales.

“Buscábamos una forma alternativa para hacer negocios y el modelo vino de América Latina”, dijo Eric Rodríguez en una entrevista con Efe.

Para ello, inmigrantes procedentes de Ecuador, Colombia y México, y algunos puertorriqueños como Rodríguez, unieron recursos y conocimientos para enfrentar el mercado laboral sacudido por la crisis económica y “demostrar que somos capaces de la auto-suficiencia”.

“En nuestros países de origen la experiencia cooperativa ocupa lugares destacados, y creemos que Café Chicago puede sostenernos a largo plazo”, dijo Rodríguez, quien ha trabajado desde 2002 en la organización de los jornaleros de esta ciudad con la Unión Latina.

Rodríguez, licenciado en administración de empresas sin fines de lucro, cree en el “comercio justo” que se puede realizar a través de una cooperativa para favorecer a los sectores “más vulnerables”.

Uno de los ejemplos a seguir es la Fundación Entre Mujeres (La FEM) de Nicaragua, una cooperativa que produce y exporta café y además se dedica a la educación, salud y promoción de los derechos femeninos.

La FEM está ubicada al este de la ciudad de Managua, en el departamento de Estelí, donde la mayor parte de la tierra se dedica al tabaco pero igualmente hay espacio para que 132 mujeres produzcan desde 1996 un café de excelente calidad.

Cada dos meses llegan a Chicago 1,500 libras de café en grano verde, que los cooperativistas de Café Chicago procesan en una tostadora prestada que aprendieron a usar, empaquetan y venden a $15 por libra, o $40 por tres libras.

Al promocionar el producto en su página en internet la cooperativa menciona el trabajo de Tony e Iván en el tostado del café, a Norberto que recorre comercios en busca de clientes o Marisol que procesa los pedidos.

Pero también están Manuel, Pablo, Patricio, Salvador, José, Armando, Héctor, Jorge, Elisa, José Louis, Michael y David, cuyos apellidos prefieren mantener en reserva para evitar posibles problemas con Inmigración.

“Café Chicago” se presenta como una cooperativa de café de trabajadores inmigrantes, unidos en un nuevo modelo de creación de trabajo, capacitación y acción social, cuyos beneficios se dedican a apoyar a la Unión Latina.

“Creemos en la justicia en cada paso en el proceso del café, y vamos en serio”, afirman.

La Unión Latina surgió en 2002 después de una huelga masiva de jornaleros que detuvo el funcionamiento de 75 agencias de trabajo denunciadas por abusos contra los trabajadores temporales.

Los jornaleros hicieron una huelga de hambre que obligó a la Asamblea Legislativa de Illinois a aprobar la Ley de Servicios Laborales Diarios, modificada tres años después para permitir que esos trabajadores se organizaran y abogaran por sus derechos en el lugar de trabajo.

El gran problema de cientos de hombres que todas las mañanas se reúnen en esquinas de la ciudad a la espera de un trabajo en construcción, pintura, jardinería, carpintería, mudanza o remoción de escombros era el robo de salarios, el acoso de la policía y la exposición a las inclemencias del tiempo durante el invierno.

En diciembre de 2004 la Unión Latina abrió su primer centro para jornaleros de la construcción en el Medio Oeste, en un local del barrio Albany Park, como alternativa al tradicional “contrato de esquina”.

Quienes buscan ayuda van al centro, discuten el precio y firman un contrato con el jornalero y la ayuda de intérpretes, de ser necesario.

Según la Unión Latina, las denuncias de robo de salarios se redujeron al 1% y el salario promedio aumentó 50%.