Leading Labor to the Streets

May 15, 2017

Thanks to years of hard work and talented staff, MassCOSH’s Worker Center is increasingly recognized as a regional leader in the fight to ensure that immigrant workers can enjoy safe, fair-paying jobs. This leadership was on full display when the Worker Center led a major demonstration this past May 1, to recognize International Workers' Day, a celebration that has been around since 1880’s. Over 1,000 marchers joined with MassCOSH to march from East Boston to Chelsea in solidarity with our communities’ immigrant workers.
 
The Worker Center began planning for this major undertaking months ago, holding a series of meetings with the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, the Chelsea Collaborative, and SEIU32BJ Local 615.
 
“We met once a week for about three months to organize and create strategic plans on how to reach the greatest number of people,” said Worker Center Coordinator Milagros Barreto. “But we also knew this would not be easy. Since our election, there has been much fear among the most vulnerable and under-resourced communities to do something so public, they are afraid to lose their jobs or be identified and deported.”
 
With the fear palpable in the communities MassCOSH works in, the Worker Center helped lead an outreach campaign to immigrant workers, taking part in groups that went door-to-door in the neighborhoods of Chelsea and East Boston, handing out flyers and explaining to workers why marching in this year’s demonstration was more critical than ever. Workshops were also held to train workers on how to communicate their experiences to reporters, translated in real time in English, Spanish and Chinese to ensure workers, regardless of nationality, could participate.  
 
“There was so much at risk for these people to march, but we told them not to be afraid of exercising their right to free expression and that together, what we are doing would lead to a better tomorrow,” said Barreto.

MassCOSH also utilized more traditional means to get the word out, including making an appearance on the Cuenca Vision television show and playing roles in different press conferences. With ever more immigrant workers using smart phones, social media outreach was also a focus.
 
After weeks of organizing, on May 1, MassCOSH joined with hundreds of allies and workers at LoPresti Park in East Boston to march to Chelsea City Hall in protest of anti-immigration measures being proposed nationwide and to demand better workplace protections and wages.
 
“It was a very powerful day,” remembers Worker Center Organizer Erika Sánchez. “Milagros and I were in charge of running the program before the march and members of the MassCOSH Worker Center took the lead and held the May Day banner from East Boston to Chelsea. This was a really historic march because of what’s happening in the government and it was also great to work with the Everett immigrant community and others to create one of the biggest marches we have ever done.”