Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project is the only organization in the state of Oregon working with the day laborer community. Day laborers are temporary workers, many of them immigrants, many of them homeless, many of them facing multiple barriers to long-term employment. We build leadership and economic power in this community through economic empowerment, leadership development, and grassroots organizing. Voz has almost 20 years of experience organizing day laborers in Portland, and we are a founding member of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which includes over 70 Worker Centers around the country.
Voz believes that sustainable and transformative social justice work must be led by the communities most affected. At Voz, we model this philosophy by striving to be a fully worker-led organization, and by empowering Portland day laborers not just through economic opportunities, but through opportunities to become leaders in their community. The day laborer community is a diverse group of leaders and organizers from around the world, who bring their skills, knowledge and life experiences to our struggle for a better future for immigrant workers in Portland.
In the 1990’s, repressive tactics by immigration officials and local police discouraged day laborers from seeking work on Portland street corners. In response, day laborers began organizing themselves and found they shared common experiences with exploitation, wage theft, and homelessness. In 1998 the Day Laborer Project, a project of the Workers’ Organizing Committee, formed. Through strategic grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts, the Day Laborer Project ended all I.C.E. raids on these intersections in the Central Eastside Industrial District and successfully began reclaiming stolen wages. As the Day Laborer Project built momentum and continued to empower other day laborers, the project separated from the Workers’ Organizing Committee and in 2000 grew into Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project (Voz). We are proud of our history, and proud to continue the legacy of day laborer led organizing in Portland!
1989: The first Worker Center is founded in Harbor City, Los Angeles - launching a nation-wide movement for day laborer organizing!
1996: Workers’ Organizing Committee is formed and begins organizing alongside day laborers to defend the community against immigration raids and law enforcement abuses
1997: A group of volunteer legal observers organize with day laborers to form Migra Watch to document immigration raids and abuses with cameras. This organizing led to the last raid on the corners of Portland in 1988.
2000: Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project is founded with fiscal sponsorship from St. Francis Church
2001: The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) is founded by Voz and Worker Centers in California
2005: Voz develops the Leadership School using popular education methods, the Leadership School is spread through the national network to build day laborer leadership across the country!
2006: Voz and immigrant rights activists around the country take to the streets on May Day in 2006 to protest the Sensenbrenner Bill, which further criminalized immigrants
2007: Following the Del Monte workplace raid in Portland, Voz organizes a rapid response network with a hotline, rapid responders, legal observers, legal services, and public denunciation in the media!
2008: Voz opens the MLK Jr. Worker Center with support from the City of Portland! To this day, the MLK Jr. Worker Center is the only Worker Center in the State of Oregon
2009: Voz launches Safe Communities Project coalition with the goal of ending Police/ICE collaboration in Oregon, ultimately succeeding in ending local law enforcement’s practice of ICE holds for immigrants held for low level crimes
2010: NDLON coordinates a national day of action against Arizona’s SB1070 . Voz organizes a local rally and street theater to mobilize against the criminalization of immigrants.
2013: NDLON launches the #Not1More campaign to coordinate local efforts into a national campaign to organize against unjust immigration laws, stop deportations, and build community
2014: Voz launches the Unidos Con Francisco campaign to rally support for Francisco, a day laborer leader who claimed Sanctuary in Portland’s Augustana Lutheran church when he was facing deportation. This successful campaign led to the federal government dropping re-entry charges against Francisco and he continues to be a local leader!
2016: Voz is active in successful campaigns to make the City of Portland and Multnomah County declare Sanctuary Status, making our communities safer and more welcoming!
2017: Day laborers organize to raise the minimum wage for jobs at the MLK Jr. Worker Center to $15 in solidarity with the Fight for $15
2018: Major victory in Voz’s Building the Dream Campaign - a campaign to build a permanent home for day laborers at the MLK Jr. Worker Center where the current temporary facilities are inadequate. In February 2018, the Board of Prosper Portland voted unanimously in support of Voz purchasing the land at a greatly discounted price!
2019: Day laborers organize to raise the minimum wage to $17 and launch a workforce development program to build job skills in order to access higher wages!