In 1996, the Workers’ Organizing Committee formed in response to repressive tactics by immigration agents and local police that discouraged day laborers from seeking work on the corners of two major intersections in Portland, OR.
As day laborers began to organize, they found they shared common incidences of discrimination and repression. A clear need for leadership development emerged. Workers and community members subsequently founded VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project in June 2000 to organize around day labor and immigrant rights in the Portland metropolitan area.
In 2001, VOZ joined 11 other community-based organizations and worker centers to create the National Day Labor Organizing Network(NDLON). NDLON works to unify and strengthen its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize, and organize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor and human rights. Today NDLON has 36 members nationwide.
For the last 13 years, VOZ has continued to mobilize its membership to secure and promote their rights through organizing, leadership development, and community education.
In 2008, after a challenging 8-year campaign, VOZ saw its long-time vision of the MLK Workers’ Center come to fruition. VOZ was awarded a grant by the City of Portland and opened the doors of the Workers’ Center on June 16, 2008.
The MLK Workers’ Center is an important community institution in that it offers a safe and healthy space for workers to wait for work, provides accountability to employers, and sets a mandated minimum wage of $12 per hour, protecting workers from exploitation.