Song, dance and mariachi music celebrated the union of several Mission District institutions devoted to immigrant workers’ rights at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics on Valencia and 16th streets last Thursday.
The festivities marked the nonprofit Dolores Street Community Services’ (DSCS) official takeover of fiscal and administrative sponsorship of the Day Labor Program and the Women’s Collective, formalizing a collaboration that began last July, said DSCS Director Wendy Phillips.
The Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective “have a long history in the community, fighting for rights of immigrant workers to have dignified work and making sure they receive fair pay, and we want to support them to be able to continue that work,” said Phillips.
The DSCS formed in 1982, providing emergency homeless shelter for Latino refugees emigrating from war-torn countries in Central America, said Phillips. It also sponsors other groups, including the African Advocacy Network and the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network.
“By coming together, we both become stronger because there is a lot of overlap in the communities we serve,” said Phillips. La Raza Centro Legal previously sponsored the Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective.
Bringing the Day Labor Program under the administrative umbrella of DSCS makes sense on many levels, said Emiliano Bourgois-Chacon, the Day Labor Program’s director.
The Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective help laborers and domestic workers find work and negotiate the terms of employment. Bourgois-Chacon said his program requires employers to pay $50 for a minimum of three hours’ work, and $15 per hour thereafter. He helps about seven workers find work every day.
The program’s 120 members pay monthly dues of $2, he said.
“The model for the Day Labor Program is that we connect the worker to the employer and that the worker develop over time a network of employers that can sustain them and then become economically independent,” said Bourgois-Chacon.
Because a majority of program members are homeless, Bourgois-Chacon said, it was natural for the group to join forces with DSCS, which provides emergency housing for the homeless.
With DSCS managing the administrative duties, Bourgois-Chacon and his largely volunteer staff can focus on providing a smorgasbord of services, including helping workers with invoices and managing receipts.
Another goal of the new sponsorship, said Bourgois-Chacon, is for DSCS to help the Day Labor Program find a larger space. The program currently houses all its activities, including an English class for its mostly Spanish-speaking members, in one medium-sized room on Cesar Chavez Street and South Van Ness Avenue.
“Its tough to have English classes in this space when people are constantly in and out,” said Bourgois-Chacon.
With more room, the Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective can improve existing services and offer new ones, like child care and skilled labor workshops.
The Day Labor Program has helped Ramiro Serrano, who emigrated from Mexico three years ago, connect with people of a similar background, and has provided him with some work for the last two years.
“Because most of us are immigrants and share a story of immigration, we connect instantly. We share work in a peaceful, calm manner,” said Serrano, adding that he gets around two jobs a month through the organization.
“The Day Labor Program is like a father that puts a blanket over its sons,” said Serrano.