Friends we met in Chicago

The Chicago gathering of hundreds of community organizers was hard work but it enabled us to hobnob with incredible activists working on mind-boggling, creative campaigns during that intense long weekend. I’d like to introduce just a few of them to you now.

The Latin American Workers Project is a Jackson Heights, Queens-based group that helps day laborers, among other immigrant workers. Hundreds of workers gather on Roosevelt Avenue under the El, waiting for employers to stop, judge and employ — or not — for that one day. Some of the worker volunteers of LAWP performed a skit at our Saturday night conference celebration which illustrated the plight of the day laborer who may be unskilled at speaking English, undocumented or both. The skit showed a domestic worker being cheated out of her day’s wages by an unscrupulous employer. Jackson Heights is a vibrant neighborhood filled with new residents of New York City; Indian, Salvadoran, Pakistani, Colombian among many other ethnicities are represented with groceries, clothing stores and restaurants. Ligia Guallpa, the executive director of LAWP, is a recent graduate of SUNY Cortland whose parents immigrated from Ecuador.

The Chicago Workers Collaborative Leone Jose Bocchieri is the director of this Workers Center which ‘educates immigrant and other low-wage workers regarding their employment rights and improving cooperation and communication between such workers and their employers.’ They are committed to creating a nation-wide boycott of the state of Arizona. Their projects include creating green cleaning collectives, helping street vendors sell their home-made food items legally, teaching ESL classes and helping temp workers achieve equality.  The photo of Leone Jose and his coworkers was first printed in the NYTimes.

Centro De Trabajadores Unidos, the Immigrants Workers’ Project, is another Chicago organization working for justice for low wage, immigrant workers. Watch for more news about this group: they share a large employer with hundreds of central NYers (Marietta Corporation). Last Friday, a contingent of TCWC members and leaders delivered a petition for Centro De Trabajadores Unidos to Marietta officials in Cortland. The Chicago workers had been informed that the Chicago factory director would not receive their documents of support: Cortland NY was the place to do that. The Chicago workers and their supporters were objecting to unfair e-verifications, lack of bathroom facilities and chemical exposures and unsafe working conditions. More on the Marietta situation soon.