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Day Laborers Celebrate Three Kings Day

Posted on January 7, 2019 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

“We Need to Share the Little We Have”

Unnoticed by many; spotted by others searching for cheap workers, hundreds of Yonkers day laborers were treated instead as kings for a day at Catholic Charities’ annual Three Kings celebration at St. Peter’s School in Yonkers last Saturday, January 5th.

Along with their wives and children, these men who snow, sun or sleet wait daily on Yonkers Ave. hoping to land work instead were treated to platters piled high with chicken, rice and beans. They sang as women decked in flowing yellow, red and green dresses performed folkloric dances with men sporting large sombreros. And they smiled as their children, many who inspired their moves to America with hopes of building better lives, ripped open wrapped gifts of toy trucks, dolls, puzzles and games.

Catholic Charities NY Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan joined Assemblyman Nader Sayegh, County Legislator Christopher Johnson, Yonkers Councilwoman Shanae Williams and members of the Yonkers police to honor the accomplishments of Obreros Unidos (Workers United), a group of approximately 400 Yonkers day laborers, at this eighth annual Three Kings celebration.

The holiday, also known as the Feast of the Epiphany and celebrated particularly in Spanish nations and Hispanic communities, commemorates the arrival in Bethlehem of the Three Kings laden with gifts ten days after the birth of the baby Jesus.

Catholic Charities formally established Obreros Unidos  10 years ago to unite and help day laborers in Yonkers, the Bronx and Westchester County who were being discriminated against and not paid their hard-earned wages by their employers as well as being robbed or assaulted in the community.  OBREROS has made great strides in protecting, changing policies and empowering more than 500 day laborers.  Services include educational workshops, leadership training, and opportunities for economic empowerment including classes in skill building, job safety, English literacy and GED preparation as well as support with immigration, lost wage recover and social services.

The Three Kings celebration honored five former day laborers who opened their own construction company.  It also paid tribute to many who stepped in to offer significant help to the day laborers including Maria Lugo of the Mt. Sinai Selikoff Center for Occupational Health; Aurelia Fernández, Organización Las Manos de Arte; Prof. Jason Parkin and Pace University Law School students and Veronica Baznan of the Women's Enterprise development.

The event offers an opportunity, despite challenges posed by poverty, language and discrimination, to celebrate day laborers’ achievements during the past year facilitated by Catholic Charities:

·               600 construction workers received OSHA training & certification to increase workplace safety

·               150 workers attended Health & Safety Fair hosted by Catholic Charities & 15 organizations

·               103 workers accessed comprehensive health care thanks to collaboration with Hudson River Healthcare regardless of insurance status or ability to pay

·               67 workers recovered $88,827 in unpaid salaries from 2016-2018

·               200 women started and grew their own businesses and sold one-of-a-kind handmade artisan products thanks to the new Mujeres en Acción (Women in Action) program

·               Workers and their families participated in immigration legal clinics focused on their rights and responsibilities

·               25 Obreros families “adopted” to receive coats and essential items from Catholic Charities St. Nicholas Project Adopt-a-Family program

·               30 day laborers volunteers joined their sister group, Women in Action, to collect more than 4,500 pounds of food and supplies to help Catholic Charities support victims of the 2018 earthquake in Mexico and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

“We need to share the little we have,” says day laborer Celestino Gonzalez.  

Learn more about Catholic Charities NY’s free services for day laborers and their families

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