Day Labor Worker Centers: Protest and Counter Protest
The Oregon Minuteman were out in force on Monday, September 22, 2008, protesting the Portland Day Laborer Worker Center located on MLK Jr. Blvd and NE Everett. One of those protesting the Labor Center site said they had been there since 6:00 in the morning.
There were several people seeking employment on the site, both near the trailer and on the street, so I suspected that the dual protests might have taken its toll on their efforts to gain employment. |
On inquiring about this possibility I was told that Monday's are usually slow and that the presence of the Minuteman may not be having much of an effect.
I was hoping to get some interviews with both sides, the Minutemen as well as those showing up to counter protest their presence at the site, but the Protesters refused to comment on camera.
Those who where there protesting the presence of the Minutemen were more forthcoming. One stated that he was there "to support the Day Laborers Center and the day laborers. I think that they are a real contribution to the Portland Community, and supporting day laborers is a way to support all American workers. It's not against American workers to have day laborer centers, it's for them; if we don't support the people at the very bottom of the work chain, then the top of the work chain isn't going to get any better either."
A few minutes earlier I heard one of the Minutemen stating that if these folks were truly looking for work they should be looking through more conventional, acceptable channels, denigrating the existence of these Day Laborer Centers. I asked one of the counter protesters his response to that point and he stated that "having a center is just a way of protecting both the employers and the employees. If they don't have a central place then people are going to take advantage of them much more. They have to have a place where they can come out of the rain, have a place to get work in a decent way. Standing on a street corner asking for work is not a dignified way to get work. We need to support the dignity of American workers, and the Day Laborer Center is doing that."
When I First arrived the Minutemen were lined up along the west side of MLK Jr, Blvd. and those counter protesting were across the street directly in front of the Day Laborer Center. Soon the Counter Protesters crossed the street and engaged some of the Protesters, challenging statements made on their signs.
One woman carrying a "Hire American Workers, Buy American Products," refused to respond to the fact that various articles of her clothing were obviously made in other parts of the world. She continued to hold her sign up to her face between her and the person seeking to engage her.
The Counter Protesters repeatedly sought to engage the Protesters in conversation, dialogue and debate, and in some instances were somewhat successful, but from what I witnessed, the Protesters did not especially relish face to face encounters with any opposing opinion from the Counter Protesters.
This might not have always been the case; I can only attest to what I personally witnessed.
I did see one Protester holding a sigh which read, "American Jobs Stolen Here," in the grouping of Counter Protesters in front of the Day Laborer Center. Brave soul, he was flanked on either side by signs reading, "Racist," and "We Support the Day Laborer Center." Another Counter Protester I interviewed, Daniel, stated that he was here to support the right of the Day Laborer Center to exist, and further, "to call out these people on the street corner, including Delia Lopez, our fabulous wannabe Congresswoman, for being bigots, basically, and establishing a connection between them and the White Supremacist Movement, which is definately clear.
The groups here today are from Oregonians for Immigration Reform, the Oregon Minuteman, and of course Delia Lopez and her campaign People."
That is our goal today is to make sure they don't do any damage to the center because they have in the past and I think everyone has a right to work."
Both the Counter Protesters I interviewed said that that there would be a presence here at the Day Laborer Center location as long as the site attracted protesters from these groups, and I infer from side conversation from the Counter Protesters that Portland Jobs with Justice have a large part in organizing to oppose the protest of the Day Laborer Center.
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion
view discussion from this article