The Skadden Report - May Day 2001

Many thanks to ACLU-NJ members who came out to New Jersey's first May Day March in support of immigrants' rights. Over 500 people congregated at Federal Plaza in Newark on a steamy May 1st to protest draconian immigration and deportation laws, abusive employment conditions and lack of access to fundamen- tal services for the thousands of immigrant working families throughout the state. Several speakers discussed their personal experiences as organizers within their communities. Supporters from various unions, faith organizations, social service and advocacy groups united with immigrant community members for a raucous march down Broad Street at the height of the evening rush hour. It was a great success!

Mobilization for one day's rally, however, is not itself an ends but a means for enacting justice. The real opportunities are now before us: how can we harness the energy sparked by May Day and utilize it to empower broader, longer campaigns of law reform and immigrants' rights? This past month has been spent meeting with the southern, central and northern New Jersey networks of immigrant advocacy groups to chart out our priorities over the next year. Identifying a unifying campaign among such diverse interests is a challenge, and the issues presented must balance our overall goals of establishing and legitimizing the struggle of immigrant workers in New Jersey, taking national leadership in organizing (New Jersey has the fifth highest number of immigrants in the nation), and, of course, advocating for statewide reforms. Some of the targeted areas in discussion include increasing participation in the national legalization debate, access to drivers licenses, enforce- ment of wage and hour violations, and governmental support for translation and interpretation at hospitals and state services. We'll keep ACLU-NJ members posted: it's going to be an exciting year.

In other news: IWRP is working closely with two groups of workers who had front page stories discussing their abusive working conditions this past spring. Thanks to a wonderful reporter at El Diario La Prensa, the region's widely read Spanish daily, I was contacted by fifteen greenhouse workers who had been paid in violation of minimum wage and hour laws and by twenty-six commuter van drivers who have been the victims of fraud and illegal retaliation. The great majority of IWRP's cases, however, continue to involve individual workers' claims, although continued outreach and media work will hopefully contribute to more organizing support and worksite claims.

Finally, I just wanted to give thanks to this summer's ACLU-NJ interns, including our three law students (Ben, Junea and Nhu) and college student (Sarah) who have provided this project with much-ap- preciated research, insight and enthusiasm (see article on Page 2). In addition to individual projects, we are all working together this summer on developing a training for domestic workers and hoping to bring this curriculum to community organizations that work with household employees. Coming soon to a neighbor- hood near you!

-By Jennifer Ching, ACLU-NJ's Skadden Fellow

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