Saturday, March 28, 2015

Giving a Voice to Immigrant Workers in New York

Ms. Toribio has helped win contracts for eight of what are now the 10 unionized carwashes in the city, achieving higher wages, back pay and better conditions for workers.

By Liz Robbins, New York Times
March 15, 2015

It was 8 p.m. last Wednesday inside a Manhattan office building, and Modesta Toribio would not let the men in the room rest. She was directing a presentation about immigration reform for a dozen carwasheros, workers from Latin America who toil in the city’s carwash industry.

As the free pizza settled in their stomachs and their eyes began to glaze over while she detailed the federal government’s reform plans, Ms. Toribio ordered the men, sweetly, to stand in a circle. “Move, if you believe in change!” she commanded.

And then: “Better to die standing than to live on your knees!” She was borrowing the slogan often attributed to Emiliano Zapata, even if her exhortations were more practical than political; she did not want the men to fall asleep.[...]

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