The Roots of Criminalization & Poverty
This month immigrant workers from the NY Worker Center Federation (WCF) gathered to learn about and discuss state and corporate violence, and human rights. The training was the second session of the year-long Delfino Leadership Institute. The first session in May centered on organizing and building worker-led movements. As follow up to the first training, participants went out into the field to learn about current campaigns led by immigrant workers in NYC and recruited one new immigrant worker to attend the July session to grow this movement.
State and Corporate Violence
The July session centered on workers’ interest in bridging the roots of criminalization with the roots of poverty. The training opened with a case study of the role of police in Staten Island. Participants discussed the reaction of the police to two separate incidents: Eric Garner allegedly selling cigarettes; and the death of Delfino Velasquez after being asked by his corporate employer, Formica, to enter an unsafe building. Workers concluded that the police’s role is to protect the wealth and property of the rich. Police took the life of Eric Garner because he was Black but also to protect corporate property. Police did not respond to Delfino’s death nor arrest the company responsible. Participants concluded the police do not create safety for communities.
Safety in the Workplace and the Community
The Worker Center Federation opened a space for immigrant workers to discuss, what would safety then look like in the workplace and in the community? In light of the recent addition of 1,300 new NYPD, the group reached the conclusion that the priorities of the city do not lie in valuing workers, but in protecting the state and corporate wealthy. Finally, the increase of ICE home raids demonstrates that the fight for police accountability includes the polimigra.
We discussed the innovative Safety Beyond Policing Campaign led by BAJI that reimagines safety outside of more cops, and the breakthrough Prison Divestment Campaign that demands Reinvestment in Humanity and Community. These campaigns proved great examples of work bridging issues and questioning the role of police in creating safe communities. Workers from El Centro spoke about their incredible progress with allies like NYCOSH in advancing visibility about worker deaths. The Justice for Delfino Campaign’s recent victory brings to light an urgent need to organize around the lives of workers.
Workers concluded that it was not enough to win workplace protections and economic justice, but the worker center movement needs to address larger systemic issues like the roots of criminalization and state/corporate violence.
Organizing at intersection of Worker Rights and Police Accountability
The members of the WCF agreed that an important next step would be a public action. We are collaborating with campaigns including the Safety Beyond Policing, ICE Free NYC, and the Prison Divestment/Reinvest in Humanity in a radical action on August 4th. The action joins others across the country in a Night Out for Safety & Liberation.
NY Worker Center Federation (WCF) is made up of Cidadao Global, DRUM South Asian Worker Center, El Centro, NICE, Street Vendor Project, and Enlace. WCF is creating a space for immigrant worker led movements in NYC, bridging sectors and issues. We are building a new labor movement that integrates issues like criminal justice, police accountability, gender equity, and immigrant rights that is led by workers.