Day laborers are temporary workers. They often face multiple barriers to long-term employment including citizenship status and homelessness. During the 1990s, immigration officials and local police used enforcement tactics that exacerbated the barriers to employment that day laborers already experienced. In response, day laborers began organizing to end targeted I.C.E. raids and successfully began reclaiming stolen wages. As their organizing built momentum, the project grew into an organization—Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project (Voz). Today, Voz is a worker-led organization that strives to improve working conditions for day laborers and protect their civil rights through leadership development, organizing, education, and economic opportunity.
José de Jesús, a day laborer and Voz participant, said “The center is a bridge to finding stable jobs. Here, if someone wants to work, they can. My experience here has been one of learning—how to paint, a little bit of English. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, so I learnt all the English I know here.” A SEED Grant Fund awardee, Voz plans to use the grant to grow their workforce development program so that hardworking Portlanders like José de Jesús can join trainings that expand their soft skills such as teamwork, work ethic, and conflict resolution. And because day labors must look for a new job each morning with no guarantee of future income, Voz has designed the training program to be flexible. Day laborers can work through the trainings at their own pace and includes a combination of on-site classroom education so they can build skills while they wait for work and, paid field experiences.
Voz also plans to use their Grant funds to recruit and expand opportunities for woman day laborers, a population in need of economic empowerment. Voz’s Executive Director, Osmani R. Alcaraz-Ochoa, states, “Thanks to this grant, we finally have the resources to get started. This is an urgent need in the community because so many workers in the Portland metro, particularly immigrant women, are currently facing unemployment, discrimination, labor rights violations, and unsafe working conditions…We’re looking forward to becoming a hub for immigrant and working women who want to organize and build power in this city.”
For more information about 2020 SEED Grant Recipient, Voz, please check out https://portlandvoz.org/
Recently, the City of Portland Cannabis Program announced its 2020 SEED Grant Fund recipients. The fund provides support to non-profit and for-profit entities working toward restitution and restoration of BIPOC communities negatively impacted by racially-biased cannabis prohibition. Over the next few weeks, we will present a series highlighting the grantees and the wonderful work they are doing to empower our Portland community.