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Catholic Charities Advocates for Worker Rights

Posted on March 7, 2019 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Day Laborer Meeting Addresses the Current Anti-Immigrant Climate

More than 100 day laborer and immigrant workers from across the five boroughs joined New York City officials and local social service organization leaders including Catholic Charities NY on Tuesday, March 5th, at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx to address employment discrimination, retaliation, and related problems exacerbated during the current political climate.

In New York City, almost 40 percent of  the population and nearly half the total workforce were born in other countries, reports Center for an Urban Future. Yet exploitation of immigrants here and throughout the nation has grown in recent years.  Day laborers are often stiffed after working 12-hour shifts under the beating sun or freezing cold.  Manicurists are crammed into tiny Queens apartments, then bused to suburban salons where they work for tips alone. Construction workers balance on plywood ten-stories high without safety gear.

To empower these workers and advocate for their rights, Catholic Charities NY helped form Obreros Unidos first in Yonkers and more recently in the Bronx.  Then, to maximize services, Catholic Charities collaborated with the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs and the New York City Commission on Human Rights along with workers’ rights organizations to hold this week’s Building Bridges: A Convening for NYC Immigrant Workers.

“It was important to bring together stakeholders, city officials and nonprofit agencies to learn about resources and what each is doing on behalf of immigrants and day laborers at large,” said Catholic Charities Bronx Director Fr. Eric Cruz after moderating one of the event’s three panels.

“But more important was hearing from the day laborers and immigrants themselves, to experience their gratitude and be inspired by their leadership and recommendations.”

Themes at this Bronx event, similar to an immigrant convening held last November in upper Manhattan, focused on how immigrants can defend against employers who illegally:

  •         Use threats of contacting Homeland Security as retaliation against workers who complain about unfair working conditions
  •         Steal or do not pay fair wages
  •         Commit fraud
  •         Discriminate
  •         Provide unsafe working conditions

“Despite current anti-immigrant policies, workers need to know there is no need to be fearful,” said Gabriela Estrella, Associate Director, Bronx Community Services, Catholic Charities Bronx Associate Director Gabriela Estrella who led another of the evening’s three panels.  “The convening helped us spread this message and knowledge to immigrants that will empower them.”