The Reality of Corners and Day Labors

Organizing it is a meaningful, but demanding job. I enjoy very much the relationship that those in the Worker Justice Project create with its members. These people need the support WJP gives them to stand up to unfair wages, and the abuse they face in their everyday jobs. This is my mid-point blog, in which I will describe how these past weeks had been as a Worker Justice. I am still working on the research with Cornell together with Angel Sanchez, my supervisor. It has become a routine to wake up around 4am so I am able to reach the site around 6 am. Then, between 6 am and 11 am, Angel and I observe, and sometimes converse with the day laborers. Sometimes the places we visit are filled with hardworking immigrants, other times we visit corners, in which a lot of issues are present. For example, we recently visited the corner situated between East Tremont Ave and Westchester Square. The majority of day laborers at this corner felt our presence to be hostile; they stared at us and even approached us to tell us to leave. I did not feel safe at such a place, filled with men that reeked of alcohol and marijuana. A few day labors were open to talked and explained to us how this corner worked, “Estamos divididos en dos grupos: los que quieren trabajar y los que vienen a bochinchar y pasar el rato.” (We are divided into two groups: Those who want to work, and those who come to fool around and waste time). This division was palpable to us, outsiders. This experience allowed me to understand that corners are a unique and complex world, which inner-work we do not completely understand.

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Besides, observing for the research Cornell was conducting on corners and day labors, I was still working on mapping the corners in the Bronx. So, after 11 am I explored the surrounding areas, and visited multiple offices, churches and other institutions to introduce the organization, as well as, our purpose and work with day labors. Many of these institutions were not interested in our work or the well being of these day labors, which made it difficult for us to organize the community to provide essential protection to these workers. Day laborers face numerous barriers in their work; a vast majority of them are illegal immigrants, who need to feed their family. Their only source of income is doing these jobs for cheaper rates, and without any guarantees that they will work on a safe environment, that they will be provided adequate equipment, or even that they will get paid the amount that was promised. They are unable to seek legal retribution or consult because of their illegal residence in the United States.

This summer working with the WJP, I have learned a lot about the labor movement, Unions, how corners work and the type of individuals that work at these sites, as well as, the issues that they face. But, learning about these issues from someone is incredibly different than when you are listening to these stories from the people themselves. It really does stir up something in your belly that pressures you to do something about it, to stand up and support these people to grow, and that is exactly what the Worker Justice Project does. WJP does not only help them face their problems, but trains them to become problem-solvers, conscious, resilient, and independent individuals so when faced with other problems

Lisbeth Bueno ’17

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