Photo: (Jacqueline García / La Opinion) / Impremedia
A group of day laborers this week was fine-tuning the final details to send a truck loaded with food and basic necessities to the immigrant community of New Orleans, located in the state of Louisiana.
The aid goes directly to immigrant families who were affected by Hurricane Ida that devastated the area last September and who have so far received no help from the federal government.
Among the volunteer helpers to pack the groceries was José Sevilla, a Honduran who originally immigrated to the state of Kansas, but moved to Los Angeles three years ago.
“When I came, I saw this place and here they helped me a lot. Now I’m doing my bit to help others,” he said.
The work is being carried out by the Mano a Mano project of the National Network of Organized Day Laborers (NDLON), which began during the pandemic to help affected workers with food pantries, in partnership with the No Kid Hungry organization and other local entities.
Nancy Torres, Mano a Mano’s supervisor, said it is common to see that the Latino and immigrant community is the one who is usually left out of needed help.
“Unfortunately many of our workers are unable to benefit from available government assistance,” Torres said.
He added that more than 1,000 boxes of food will be sent to deliver to needy families. Each box can last a family of four for up to a month.
The pantries will be delivered with the help of local organizations Familias Unidas and El Congreso de Jornaleros, both members of NDLON. However, pro-immigrant activists and organizers assured that the aid does not end with the delivery of food.
A group of trainers from NDLON will arrive this Saturday to begin organizing a basic training on workplace safety laws known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Cal Soto, attorney and director of labor rights for NDLON, said they will arrive to deliver the pantries — at the same time the truck will arrive — and then they will begin providing information to workers who want to train.
The lawyer indicated that, with the process of rebuilding the city, the immigrant workforce has been highly visible, however, the workers are not receiving the necessary protection at work.
“We go with a team of day laborers who have their OSHA 10 training certification, it is the basic OSHA training so they can receive [su certificación]”Soto said. The 10-hour training will be conducted over a two-day period.
In addition, he added that he will be in charge of giving training on labor rights, such as letting them know what workers should do if they do not receive their payment or if they are discriminated against.
“They do have rights and if we find serious cases I will take them,” said Soto.
Pasadena Mayor Victor M. Gordo appreciated the selfless help of the day laborers, who are also in need, but understand the value of compassion and sharing.
“This is done by workers who have suffered for their families and have had to work in the midst of the pandemic,” he said.
“That says a lot about these workers, it shows that their hearts go beyond their own needs and they know about the needs of others who are perhaps in worse conditions.”
Pablo Alvarado, co-director of NDLON, said that many of these immigrant families came to New Orleans for the first time after Hurricane Katrina to work on the state’s recovery and decided to stay.
However, although they are recognized as essential workers, they do not receive the necessary help to get ahead, especially after this latest hurricane.
“They are in charge of removing the water in the basements, cutting down the fallen trees, removing the walls and doing much more,” Alvarado said. “But in most cases, employers fail by not providing them with the proper safety equipment.”
To aid the state’s recovery and end the fear of migrant workers, Alvarado said NDLON is petitioning the federal government that includes:
- Indefinitely stop deportations at a time of reconstruction to stop separating families.
- They ask for the visit of OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 inspectors to make sure that workers are working safely and have the necessary equipment.
- Adequate trainers arrive to ensure that labor violation investigations are reviewed. For example, that workers receive adequate wages.
- They seek protection for workers who expose injustices so that later, they do not suffer reprisals.