National and Regional Gatherings of Day Laborers
From February 19 to the 23rd, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) Assembly was held in Los Angeles, the city with the longest history of day laborer organizing in the country. More than 350 people were in attendance from some 50 member organizations from across the United States to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NDLON. Participants made connections, received leadership training, and planned a course of action for the day laborer movement in the United States for the coming years. Six day laborer leaders– Marcos Cardenas, Felix Chuma, Daniel Alvarez, Johnny Escoto, Jesus de León, and Jesus Sánchez—and three staff members– Romeo Sosa, Francisco Aguirre, and Paul Riek– travelled to Los Angeles to represent VOZ at the national event.
The Assembly was inaugurated th evening of Sunday February 19th. Monday’s activities were focused on remembering 10 years of NDLON history and improving effectiveness of Worker Centers in obtaining more work for day laborers. Tuesday’s theme was the “Turning the Tide” campaign against unjust immigration enforcement programs. On Wednesday, the experience of women in the struggle for immigrant rights was highlighted, and then participants marched to protest Los Angeles Sheriff Baca’s participation in the “Secure Communities” program.
While VOZ Organizer, Paul Riek, described the march as an incredible experience, he said another highlight of the National Assembly was the musical entertainment provided by the day laborer music group, Jornaleros del Norte. The band played throughout the week, starting each session with music which brought excitement to the meetings while reinforcing day laborer identity within the context of the National Network. The Assembly was powerful as it promoted solidarity among so many different day laborer organizations throughout the country.
Voz representative Félix Chuma made a proposal to the Assembly to include indigenous identity issues as they parallel gender equality issues covered in the program in relevance to day laborer and workers’ rights. A working group was created to recognize this newest expression of diversity in the day laborer movement.
In preparation for the National Assembly, Voz day laborer leaders Marcos Cárdenas, Alex Gonzalez, Johnny Escoto, Daniel Alvarez, and Braulio Torres; and staff members Romeo Sosa and Paul Riek, attended the Northwest Regional Assembly on January 26th and 27th in Seattle at Casa Latina, the other active member organization in the Northwest. Workshops were conducted on LGBTQ sensitivity, social inequality, and health and safety on the job. Finally, tours of the Casa Latina facilities allowed the VOZ staff members and day laborers in attendance to learn about the partner organization operations.
Overall there was a positive response to the Assembly including an appreciation for Casa Latina’s worker center structure, procedures, and computer software for assigning work. Inspired by the visit, VOZ has the objective of using similar strategies to advance our work in Portland. Since Casa Latina offered to share their new software, VOZ has a wonderful opportunity to improve the effectiveness of our own Martin Luther King Jr. Worker Center when we are able to obtain necessary equipment.