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Voz campaign to keep the MLK Jr. Worker Center

Voz is a worker's rights education project that protects basic rights and provides education for day laborers in Portland. In 2008, the organization opened the MLK Jr. Worker Center as an initiative of the City of Portland to increase the safety and equity of the Central Eastside Industrial District. It has since become an important community institution, as it has decreased public safety concern now that less people congregate on the street to look for work and disrupt area businesses.
The center also provides accountability to employers and sets a minimum wage of $10 per hour (possibly $12 currently) to protect workers from exploitation. The MLK Jr. Worker Center has generated over 16,000 jobs for Portland area day laborers. Voz's 5-year lease on the center ended in June 2013 and the property can be sold as early as December per their month-to-month lease contract starting in July. Mobilizing our community around a permanent home for this center is urgent! As the center strengthens its community impact, the need for permanent public health facilities and permanent classroom/administrative facilities grows. The City of Portland needs to recognize its historical investment in this essential community resource and continue to prioritize support for Voz despite budget shortfalls.

Voz is building community support from area business owners, employers, allies, individuals and unions. They recently had a letter of support for the MLK Jr. Worker Center submitted to the mayor by Oregon AFL-CIO. They are also receiving several other letters of support from Kerns Neighborhood Association, Coalition of Communities of Color, and Laborers Local 483.

Through the Mayor's office, they are seeking a concrete answer to their 3 requests:

  • -Change the ownership of the 240 NE MLK Jr. Blvd property to Voz Workers' Rights Education Project so that Voz can move forward with a capital construction campaign for a permanent home for the MLK Jr. Worker Center
  • -Add a permanent line item into the City of Portland's budget to institutionalize their historic investment and create a sustainable city initiative.
  • -Provide technical assistance to navigate city codes, zoning requirements, and permits for Voz's capital construction campaign. This campaign is growing stronger and larger than ever.

Please join them in their efforts to ensure a permanent home for the MLK Jr. Worker Center. You can join them by:

  • Signing their online petition to the Mayor:
  • -Sending a letter of support as a community member to Mayor Hales urging him to donate the property, approve the continuation of city funding, and provide technical assistance for our capitol construction campaign. For a template letter of support please contact Andrea Valderrama at development@ portlandvoz.org or at 503-233-6787.
  • -Recruiting social justice organizations, unions, and other community members to send letters of support to the Mayor.
  • -Contributing to the campaign or consider becoming a monthly sustainer. Day laborers rely on the support members like you provide.

For further questions or comments on our Save the Center campaign, please contact Ranfis Villatoro by Email or call 503-233-6787.

*In 1996, the Workers' Organizing Committee formed in response to repressive tactics by immigration agents and local police that discouraged day laborers from seeking work on the corners of two major intersections in Portland, OR. As day laborers began to organize, they found they shared common incidences of discrimination and repression. A clear need for leadership development emerged. Workers and community members subsequently founded VOZ Workers' Rights Education Project in June 2000 to organize around day labor and immigrant rights in the Portland metropolitan area. VOZ also provides ESL (English as a second language) classes, computer, art, and music classes, and even has a theater group.

and the beat goes on 07.Aug.2013 09:59

Lawrence J. Maushard