Filipinas in New York City March to Defend Workers Rights on May Day

May 2, 2011

Filipinas in New York City March to Defend Workers Rights on May Day

Reference: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment;

New York City – On May 1, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment joined 20,000 people at Union Square with the May 1st Coalition to march for job security, workers rights, and legalization for all. The march ended at Foley Square, where the Coalition was greeted by various unions holding a unified May 1st rally.

Today, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) still suffer from damaging work conditions, exploitation, and government neglect. As a result of unequal U.S. foreign policies, trade agreements, and the cooperation of puppet governments, the working poor in third world countries, and specifically the Philippines are forced to leave and find work elsewhere. The Labor Export Program (LEP) in the Philippines is a government system that currently forces close to 4,000 Filipinos to leave the country everyday, 70% of whom are women. Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment urge all women and their families to join the struggle against forced migration and fight for genuine comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. “We demand an end to the raids and deportation that are separating and hurting our families. We march and stand together with women, immigrants, and workers across all communities to defend the rights of workers, especially the majority of whom fall victim to exploitative situations and are deprived of their basic rights,” said Irma Bajar, Chairperson of FiRE.

The slew of neoliberal policies have resulted in the worst global economic crisis faced since the Great Depression. Workers feel the brunt of this crisis, both citizen and immigrant, and remain vulnerable to exploitation. “It’s definitely a pressing issue in the Filipino community as the majority of our people in the United States are marginalized workers. Migrant workers are caught between the Philippine government’s Labor Export Program and racist legislation like SB1070 and House Bill 87 in the US,” explained Cris Hilo, Secretary General of FiRE.

FiRE sisters march for legalization for all.

The march ending with various unions like SEIU 1199 and TWU 100, and made clear the need for workers and immigrants in the United States to collaborate and unite in these dark times. “Job security is a real issue that the media refuses to cover. Union busting, like in Wisconsin, or even locally like the Woodlawn Cemetery Workers strike, leaves all workers, both citizens and immigrants, open to attack,” said Hanalei Ramos, Vice-Chair of FiRE.

As the on-going economic crisis continues to bring hardship to working families, especially immigrant communities and women, it is vital to organize and fight for their rights as scapegoating and deportations threaten their livelihood,” said Candice Sering, FiRE member.

ALL OUT THIS SUNDAY, MAY 1st at Union Square! Look for the FiRE flag!

It’s that time my sisters! For us as Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment to march in the streets of New York city to demand
Let us march in solidarity with ALL the WORKERS! Invite your family, friends, co-workers, lovers, neighbors, dogs and cats to march with us THIS Sunday, May 1st! Where? UNION SQUARE! What time? 12pm!!!

We are calling ALL FIRE members to come out at this very important RALLY and March!

We Demand:

Respect for all our human rights against wage theft and for salary justice!
Stop Firing workers and the attacks on unions!
Free health services for ALL!
Stop Trafficking our People!
Justice for Overseas Filipino Workers!
Stop the Harassment of street vendors!
Respect for our Day Laborers!
Respect for the Rights of LGBTQGNC People!

For the
On May 1st 2011 in Union Square
14th St. & Broadway, Manhattan (Southeast; in front of shoe mania)
*look for the BAYAN and Rainbow FiRE flag*

March to Foley Square for Unity Closing Rally to DEMAND JOBS, LEGALIZATION, NO CUTS

Filipino Women in NYC Share Stories, Strength, and Vows to Fight Violence Against Women

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2010

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chair, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-GABRIELA USA,, 925-726-5768

Filipino Women in NYC Share Stories, Strength, and Vows to Fight Violence Against Women
3rd Annual Pinay Herstories in NYC ——

New York, NY–On April 22, 2010, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) held its annual Pinay HERstories at Bluestockings Bookstore on the Lower East Side, Manhattan. The well-attended event, part of GABRIELA USA’s national showcase, explored the Filipina experience through personal narratives, focusing on the important and often-silenced issue of violence against women.

During the event, audience members participated by reading aloud the seven categories of violence against women and children GABRIELA USA is highlighting in their campaign “iVow to Fight Violence Against Women”– sex trafficking and prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and exploitation, limited access to reproductive health care, and violence as a result of political repression. An impressive lineup of Pinay performers from New York, New Jersey, Seattle, California, and the Philippines gave voice and depth to these issues sharing their experiences through poetry, music, and spoken word.

CUNY Hunter student and a first time performer, Rosalyn Jimenez, shared a poem about the disgust and shame that she feels when she is harassed by men in the street. Kristine Juntura, a 17-year old student at Archbishop Molloy High School, performed an emotional piece about a story of a friend who was in an abusive relationship. Joanna Mariano, another 15-year old high school student, dedicated a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” to any woman who has ever felt insignificant or weak, reminding us that we are all beautiful.

“Although this year’s theme was a bit more serious than past years, it also featured the cultural and creative work of young Filipinas which showed the audience and our community that it is important to talk about this important issue with our younger sisters, siblings and children,” Jackie Mariano, one of the organizers of the event stated.

Laurel Fantauzzo took us back through time in a funny yet poignant nonfiction essay, as she tried to make sense of the history of violence in her family that has been passed down from mother to mother. Maria Avetria and FiRE members Hanalei Ramos and Melanie Dulfo also performed, sharing poetry that directly pointed to globalism and militarism as main factors that have forced many Filipinas into prostitution.

Valerie Francisco, FiRE’s chairperson, extended an invitation to the audience to become more involved in their communities especially on the issue of violence. She noted that Gabriela Women’s Party in the upcoming Philippine elections will be raising this issue at the forefront of their campaign and that our work echoes the brave women who are blazing trails in stopping violence against women in such a patriarchal culture. Francisco reminded the audience that everyone in the audience can take a stand as well, “Exploitation of undocumented workers and ICE raids in our community is violence too! Let’s take a stand together on May 1st, we ask you to march for genuine U.S. immigration reform at Union Square!”

A surprise performance by representatives of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, Jen Awingan and Jill Carino, who are participating at the annual UN Forum on Indigenous People, engaged the audience through an indigenous song and dance in Ilocano. Rogue Pinay of 1st Quarter Storm closed the night off with poetry, interpretive dance, and hip-hop. Her work addressed violence against women in a global, capitalist context. Audience members moved and danced while shouting, “Makibaka, huwag matakot!” along with the hip-hop artist. The night concluded on an energetic note, as audience members and performers alike shouted their participation in the “iVOW” campaign.

On its 3rd run of Pinay Herstories, the audience and FiRE members are reminded of how important and significant all women creative spaces and events are to bring to light the issues that are pressing in their lives. The event brought violence into the center of the dialogue and encouraged the audience to take up violence as a community issue, not just an individual problem. “We need to keep talking about violence against women and children. We need to keep creating spaces that empower women and put their stories in the forefront,” Mariano continued.

Pinay HERstories is a part of GABRIELA-USA’s national campaign to end violence against women. “iVOW to Fight VAW” is a comprehensive campaign that addresses violence against women as issues of sex trafficking and prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and exploitation, limited access to reproductive health care, and violence as a result of political repression. The campaign, which launched in February 2010, urges people to take a stand and commit to ending violence against women.

Join FiRE on May Day!
Saturday, May 1, 2010
12:00pm – 4:00pm
UNION SQUARE 14th St. & Broadway, Manhattan

The Struggle Continues… Even in the Age of Obama, Filipino-Americans Must Fight for Genuine Immigration Reform



April 27, 2009
Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN-USA, email:

The Struggle Continues… Even in the Age of Obama, Filipino-Americans Must Fight for Genuine Immigration Reform

Statement of BAYAN-USA on May Day 2009

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations across the United States, calls on all Filipino-Americans to commemorate May 1st, 2009 by joining the people’s continuing struggle for genuine immigration reform in the United States, and systemic change to the exploitative labor export structures in the Philippines.

On May 1st, 2006, Filipinos in the United States under the banner of BAYAN-USA were amongst the millions across the country who revived the militant spirit of May Day, an international workers holiday celebrated around the world but whose significance is suppressed and systemically erased by the US ruling elite and government. As exploitation and oppression against immigrants in the US grows worse– even in the age of the new Obama administration, which reaches its 100th day in office on May 1– it is paramount that Filipinos, coming from one of the world’s largest labor exporting countries and the poorest in Asia, express solidarity with all immigrant workers by fighting for dignity, justice, and human rights. This May 1st, BAYAN-USA remains at the forefront of the May Day rallies and street mobilizations in several US cities, and appeals to the broader Filipino-American community to join us in this righteous fight.

Forced by Poverty to Migrate, Living in the Shadows in the U.S.

There are over 4 million Filipinos living in the United States, comprising the third largest immigrant population in the country. At least 60,000 Filipinos enter the US every year, mainly through family sponsorship. Of this, at least one million Filipinos in the US are undocumented, which translates to one million lives living in the shadows, in fear, and vulnerable to the gravest human rights violations perpetuated by the broken immigration system. These human rights violations include indentured servitude at the hands of greedy employers who prey on the fear of undocumented migrants, Gestapo-like raids by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unlawful detentions without due process, and mass deportations.

For the majority of Filipinos who migrate via family sponsorship, the inefficient backlog system in the US has Filipinos waiting as long as 10-15 years for approval of their petitions. But the sad reality remains that most undocumented and exploited Filipino workers in the US would rather choose a life deemed worthless by the US government for a shot at greener pastures, than go home to the Philippines where they are guaranteed life of poverty and hopelessness. This predicament is universal to all who migrate to the US from countries forced into poverty by neoliberal globalization.

Exploited by Multi-National Corporations and Philippine Labor Export Program

The Philippine economy is kept afloat by the dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers, which annually average up to $15-16 billion. More than half of the total amount remitted to the Philippines comes from Filipinos in the United States. Wide-scale poverty and deepening hunger force over 3000 Filipinos to leave their loved ones behind and migrate abroad daily. For the vast majority of the 10 million Filipinos living outside of the Philippines, migration was never a choice, but a means of survival for themselves and the families they left behind.

Landlessness for the majority of the Filipino population that live off the land and lack of national industries to provide Filipinos with decent jobs are at the root of this miserable reality. For over 60 years, the collaboration of global monopoly capitalism and the Philippine ruling elite has molded the Philippine economy to an export-oriented and import-dependent model. This means the vast natural resources of the country are bought cheap by multinational corporations and lack of processing industries leave Filipinos dependent on expensive imports from overseas for consumption. As systematized mainly through the global trading system known as neoliberal globalization, the Philippines remains a huge export processing zone for the first world countries of the world, leaving Filipinos literally as beggars on mountains of gold, and therefore seeking to migrate. The Philippine ruling elite, currently represented by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, profits from this misery by systematizing Filipino labor export in the Philippines through the country’s Labor Export Program (LEP), another oppressive system that literally pimps Filipino migrants abroad but refuses to protect them when they are abused and exploited, or worse, while overseas.

But the huge cracks and inherent flaws of the global system of monopoly capitalism are deepening and rearing for an inevitable downfall, as seen through the global economic crisis. The Arroyo administration maliciously boasts that the global economic crisis will not affect Filipinos or the Philippine economy. But these deceptive words are proven untrue every day as the demand for overseas Filipino workers decrease, causing the annual remittances to the Philippines from overseas Filipino workers to plummet downwards. The rapid isolation of the rotten Philippine ruling system provides excellent conditions for the majority of Filipinos to unite and strengthen the people’s movement for change in the country. The same can be said for the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform in the US.

Workers and Migrants Rise Up

As multinational corporations and big banks face the worst crisis in world history, caused by neoliberal globalization itself, the struggles of oppressed migrant workers around the world, including Filipinos, must intensify. It is under these circumstances that workers’ victories can be achieved as capitalists and their rotten system grow weaker by the day. It is also in this context that immigrant workers in the United States, amongst the most oppressed in the country, must raise the struggle from the streets for genuine immigration reform to a higher level and pressure the Obama administration to live up to its rhetoric of “change we can believe in.”

May 1, 2009 marks the 100th day of the Obama administration. With the official exit of George W. Bush, the Obama administration must be challenged by immigrants themselves to depart from the much-hated foreign and domestic policies of the Bush administration. Filipinos in the US must be part of issuing this challenge to the US government. With Washington already poised to put immigration on the table this May, and the two largest US labor federations uniting in the endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform, the political stage is opening its doors for advancements in the immigrant rights movement. We cannot afford to sit back and allow US lawmakers to decide on the fate of tens of millions of immigrant workers, including four million Filipinos, and their families abroad. The only path we should take is onwards with the struggle for a just and humane immigration system free of exploitation and repression.









SUNDAY 4/19: March for Dignity and Workers’ Rights

March for Dignity and Workers’ Rights:
Stop Police Harassment! Shut Down Scam Employment Agencies!
Sunday, April19, 2009
11:30 am
69th St. and Roosevelt Ave.
Take 7 Train to 69th St.

You are invited to march with us on Sunday, April 19 for our rights and welfare as immigrants in our local community. In Woodside, immigrant workers have faced ongoing police harassment and have been ticketed without reason. In October 2008, 10 day laborers were arrested by the police for standing on the sidewalk on 69th St. and 37th Ave. In Jackson Heights on 84th St., workers have been scammed at a local recruitment agency called People Helping People, where they charge over $100 without any available work in return. In Astoria, rent prices have gone so high–forcing immigrant workers to live in cramped housing. This exploitation and harassment needs to stop!

On April 19 we are marching to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH!

On May 1, we will march again with the rest of NYC! 14th St.- Union Square @ 4pm.


Organized by Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside, Philippine Forum, Sisa Pakari Labor Center, Anakbayan-NY/NJ, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), No Raids Committee in Queens, Nodutdol, May 1st Coalition for Workers and Immigrant Rights (