Gearing Up for May Day, Diverse Groups Take to Queens Streets
By Karen Yi
April 21, 2009
Against a backdrop of multi-colored flags from Filipino organizations and amidst indigenous music from the Ecuadorian group Raices, day laborers, immigrants and community activists came together to demand dignity and rights for all workers in a protest on April 19 in Woodside, Queens. The march began at 11:30 a.m. as protesters marched along Roosevelt Avenue, chanting “The People United, Will Never Be Defeated!”
Gearing up for the May 1 rally, day laborers and Filipino worker and human right organizations came together to demand an end to deportations, raids and workplace discrimination. Filipino organizations such as the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE), Philippine Forum, and BAYAN NY/NJ marched with primarily Ecuadorian and Mexican day laborers in a show of solidarity against increased police harassment towards day laborers in Woodside.
“Although the geographies and the locations are different, our communities, and the immigrant workers in our communities, are suffering the same kind of exploitation,” said Valerie Francisco, chair of the Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE).
Day laborers say that jobs are becoming fewer and far between while police in the area are stepping up harassment. Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside say police are ticketing day laborers without reason. “We have been affected by the economic crisis, we don’t need increased harassment by police,” said a member from Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside, “but this is not just, all we want is jobs.”
The protest was also a cry against the arrest of 10 day laborers in Oct. 2008 for standing on 69th St. and 37th Av. looking for work.
“We cannot be silent, when our brothers and sisters do not have basic human rights, jobs, security and the ability to support their families,” said Krystle Cheirs, a representative of Gabriela USA. “Together we can combat these injustices in the city we helped build.”
With the unemployment rate at 8.5 percent for March, community organizers are demanding the federal bailout include job creation for the undocumented. “In the stimulus package there’s a lot of money being funneled into workers,” said Francisco, “but jobs for America has to include the plight of immigrant and undocumented workers.”
“We all have different languages, we all have different names, we all come from different countries,” said a representative from NYCHRP addressing the crowd, “but I can guarantee you we have one thing in common, if our home countries, or our parents’ home countries, or our grandparents home countries could offer us jobs, we would not have to be here today. We live in a world where migration is not a choice, it is the only option.”