Issues We Organize Around
Mobilizing our Community Around Immigration Reform We work together with local and national coalitions and networks towards just immigration reform. We believe 2009 provides ample opportunity to pass sweeping federal legislation and so we are gearing up to meet this opportunity with adequate organization and resources. We are also active in the National Day Labor Organizing Network’s Arizona campaign to put an end to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s terrorism in Maricopa County.
Portland Day Labor Center This past year, after a challenging 8-year campaign, VOZ saw its long-time vision of a Portland Day Labor Center come to fruition. VOZ was awarded a grant by the City of Portland and opened the doors of the Center on June 16, 2008. The Center is an important community institution in that it:
- Provides a safe and healthy space for workers to wait for work, protecting them from the elements and harassment
- Mandates a minimum wage set by the day laborers themselves. Currently it is $10/hour
- Increases transparency in the hiring process and provides accountability to employers. In a normal year VOZ usually sees between 30-50 cases of non-payment of wages. Since the Center has opened, the number of cases of unpaid wages from the Center has dropped to 5. This indicates that the Center is an effective tool at combating worker exploitation.
- Creates a space for dialogue and relationship building between day laborers and the greater Portland community
- Is a central meeting place for the day labor community. The Center greatly facilitates VOZ’s organizing and leadership development efforts.
How We Organize
Day Laborer Assembly This is our main decision-making process and base-building platform. Each month, between 40-80 day laborers meet and discuss relevant issues involving the Day Labor Center, immigration policy, and programmatic changes. Any new program, event, or political strategy must first be approved at these meetings. This can range from a change in the newsletter lay-out to creating tactics to deal with hostile protesters at the Day Labor Center. The Assemblies are the first place where day laborers become decision-makers in the organization and begin to identify as a member of VOZ. Day laborers participate by promoting the meeting to other day laborers, presenting discussion topics, facilitating, cooking, cleaning, and taking notes.
Cultural Expression as a Tool for Organizing
At VOZ, we create spaces for day laborers to express their voice and dreams through the mediums of Music, Art, and Theatre. We host weekly classes, facilitated by volunteers, and use these classes as tools for day laborers to develop political consciousness and articulate their reality. This gives day laborers an opportunity to express themselves through alternatives to written or spoken language. We also utilize art, music, and theatre presentations to educate the larger community about day labor issues.
The presentations and classes provide opportunities for day laborers with particular artistic skills to be able to showcase their talent and take on leadership tasks such as facilitating art classes, directing presentations, etc.