World Day of Social Justice: February 20th
The Theme for 2018:
Workers on the move: the quest for social justice
February 20th was established as The World Day of Social Justice by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2007. On this annual commemoration, the international community is invited to renew its commitment to the full implementation of efforts to eradicate poverty, promote full employment and decent work, work for gender equity and ensure access to social well‐being and justice for all. By initiating the World Day of Social Justice, the Member States made a bold assertion that the pursuit of social justice for all is essential to the achievement of their global mission to promote and protect human dignity and sustainable development for all.
This year’s theme acknowledges that a majority of those migrating are directly or indirectly searching for decent work and salaries that will allow them and their families to live a secure and stable life. There are an estimated 258 million international migrants, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that approximately 150 million are migrant workers. An increasing number of women have joined in the search for work in a foreign country so now migrant workers are 56 per cent men and 44 per cent women.
Migration has too frequently left workers vulnerable to exploitation in their countries of origin, transit and destination. Low wages, unsafe working conditions and human rights violations are an increasingly common experience among migrants. The poverty trap closes in on them and unscrupulous employers often exploit their desperation and desire to provide for the well-being of their families. The lack of social justice can cause some to find work in the informal economy; become victims of forced labor or debt bondage; be trafficked or be forced into child labor. (ILO, Conclusions concerning fair and effective labour migration governance, International Labour Conference, 106th Session, Geneva, 16 June 2017, para. 3.)
On February 20th, the ILO hosted a panel discussion on the 2018 theme. It is a contribution to the UN TOGETHER campaign (https://together.un.org/) which encourages global action in promoting non‐discrimination and addressing increasing xenophobia targeting refugees and migrants.
Salesians Responding to Immigrant Laborers in Port Chester, New York
Housed in the Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester, Don Bosco Workers has been a promoter and defender of immigrant workers’ rights and the payment of just wages. Led by Gonzalo Cruz, himself an immigrant, Don Bosco Workers had been empowering immigrant workers to seek and obtain justice by educating them about their rights, advocating for legislation to protect them and bringing business committing wage theft to court to pay the workers they have defrauded.
On February 5, 2018, Mr. Cruz shared some of his experience and successes with the Don Bosco Workers during the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. Along with a professor from Georgetown University and a leader of another worker organization he spoke on a panel called Protecting Workers and Immigrants in the 21st Century: New Models for Worker Justice.
“We meet with workers and talk about the problems they are experiencing at work and in the community,” Cruz said. Then in partnership with local and national Unions and Pace University Law school they prepare campaigns and legal affidavits to pursue justice for the workers.
Wage theft plagues many immigrants, who may be in an irregular situation in the country and believe they can’t trust someone should they make a complaint. Guided by legal experts, Don Bosco Workers have successfully recouped stolen wages and prosecuted the offenders.
Four years ago, Don Bosco and Communications Workers of America Local 1103 developed a “No Pay, No Way” campaign. In a video prepared on the campaign, workers, including Cruz, spoke of learning about their rights and just remuneration for their work. He said, “I was working 72 hours (a week) and was not paid overtime wages. I didn’t even know what is overtime.” Within a year of the launch of the Campaign, 70 local businesses had taken the No Pay, No Way pledge, which earned them a gold seal to affix to their store window to show customers that their workers were treated justly and paid fairly.
In the end, Cruz said, the goal is to ensure that hard working immigrants can receive “good wages and benefits, and a good chance to get a job in the local community.”
Mission Statement of Don Bosco Worker’s, Inc
Don Bosco Worker’s, Inc. is a grassroots community-organizing group led by Latino immigrant day laborers and other low-income workers in Port Chester, New York. We advocate for full and fair participation in the labor market through workplace rights education, leadership development and popular education methods for identifying social change goals from within the worker community. As part of our goal for full integration of our worker members into the labor force and society, we are committed to English language instruction and civic participation. Our principal concern is to maximize the number of workers hired daily at a fair wage and in safe working environments, while also advocating to end the exploitation of Latino immigrant workers (e.g. wage theft, etc.) by holding employers responsible. A key tenet of our mission is collaboration with other groups on the local and national levels that offer us shared resources, support, and the experience of being part of a larger social movement to advance the dignity of the worker. We are also proud to be a part of the Village of Port Chester and give back to the community through service days, actions on behalf of early childhood education, and other civic causes.