Voz’ Building the Dream Campaign is the fight to build a permanent home for day laborers in Portland. For 10 years the MLK Jr. Worker Center has been a safe and empowering space for the day laborer community to seek dignified work and organize themselves around the issues affecting them. However, the facilities at the MLK Jr. Worker Center are temporary structures and Voz has been on a month-to-month lease since 2013.
In 2018, we achieved a huge victory in the Building the Dream Campaign. On February 14th, 2018, Prosper Portland’s Board of Commissioners voted Unanimously in support of a long-term lease and an exclusive right for Voz to purchase the existing MLK Jr. Worker Center lot! To stay up to date on campaign updates, join our newsletter. A permanent home for day laborers is critical to the fight for worker and immigrant justice:
Day laborers deserve a dignified place to wait for work. The temporary structures of the current MLK Jr. Worker Center, and our month-to-month lease, mirrors the temporary, uncertain nature of the day laborer economy and has been a major barrier to developing the physical infrastructure necessary to meet day laborers’ needs. Permanent home for day laborers would not only increase the dignity of seeking work for day laborers, but also increase the impact of our organizing and advocacy work around things like Wage Theft, living wages, access to culturally competent workforce development trainings, and combatting classist and racist stereotypes against low wage immigrant workers.
The MLK Jr. Worker Center is a space built by and for day laborers, where they are protected from anti-worker and anti-immigrant attacks, but also empowered to build community power. It is an example of what Sanctuary spaces can and should be for marginalized communities. As we fight to defend Sanctuary status, the MLK Jr. Worker Center already exists as a true Sanctuary space for the day laborer community. In this hostile political climate, it is all the more critical that we defend spaces where day laborers are protected and empowered, and where they can organize themselves around the issues affecting them.
As low-income workers of color, many of whom are immigrants, many of whom are houseless, the process of gentrification is particularly violent for day laborers. The Worker Center property is the last City-owned lot in the fast-developing neighborhood of Central Eastside Portland. Apartment buildings and boutique retail shops are popping up on all sides of the Worker Center, changing the demographics of the neighborhood where day laborers have sought work for decades. This campaign takes a stand against the gentrification of Portland, and asks the City to put their dollars into community based community development to defend day laborers’ right to live and work in the Central Eastside.