Valley labor, immigrant organizers plan May Day actions

  • Lesbia Vidot of Holyoke, with Service Employees International Union (SIEU) 1199, joined about two dozen people, including immigrant and low-income workers, clergy and union leaders, who took to the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Springfield Ward 1 Councilor Adam Gomez, background center, speaks to about two dozen people who took to the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jafet Robles, an organizer with the Springfield chapter of People to People, addresses about two dozen people gathered on the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Diana Sierra, center, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, joined by Eric Bauer from Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, welcomes about two dozen people, including immigrant and low-income workers, clergy and union leaders, gathered on the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Diana Sierra, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, welcomes about two dozen people, including immigrant and low-income workers, clergy and union leaders, gathered on the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire-Franklin Labor Council President Patrick Burke joined about two dozen people on the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Springfield Ward 1 Councilor Adam Gomez speaks to about two dozen people who took to the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Springfield Ward 1 Councilor Adam Gomez, left, speaks to about two dozen people who took to the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday to call for a general strike on May 1. Below, Diana Sierra, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, speaks at the event. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING PHOTOS

  • Gabriella della Croce, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, reads aloud a letter from an immigrant worker, identified only as Luis, during a press conference on the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holly Richardson, of Out Now, joined about two dozen people on the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to call for a general strike on May 1, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 4/26/2017 10:08:37 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Diana Sierra was 5 years old when she immigrated to the United States from Colombia.

Growing up in New York, she witnessed the challenges faced by immigrant workers: racism, sexism, exploitation and sexual harassment.

“Having seen my mom, in particular, go through that, it opened my eyes to what immigrants face, and I don’t want other immigrants to go through the same,” Sierra said.

On Wednesday, Sierra stood with two dozen others on the steps of Springfield City Hall to advocate for workers’ rights and announce a May Day general worker strike, to take place on May 1.

Holding signs that said “Sanctuary Now” and “Los Derechos de los Inmigrantes Son Derechos Humanos” (the rights of immigrants are human rights), Sierra and the others chanted, “Not one more (deportation)!”

The strike is planned as one of many across the country in support of immigrant and workers’ rights. The Pioneer Valley Workers Center has partnered with other groups in western Massachusetts to plan the day of events in this state.

Activities in Northampton include a potluck at 20 Hampton Ave. #200 at noon, a march downtown at 1:30 p.m. and a celebration at Haymarket Cafe at 8 p.m.

In Springfield, a 5:30 p.m. rally is to be held at 1515 Main St., followed by a march to Springfield City Hall.

“The May 1 strike is just one tactic of a larger movement to win racial and economic justice,” Sierra said in her speech on the steps of Springfield City Hall Wednesday. “On May 1,  we are recommitting ourselves to unite forces and win justice for all workers. After May Day, you can reassure yourself that we will continue to build this movement.”

Sierra has been an organizer at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center for about a year and a half. She said 179 organizations in western Massachusetts are planning to join the strike.  In addition, 18 businesses in Florence, Northampton and Springfield have agreed to close down for the day.

Those in attendance at the Wednesday rally expressed many reasons for being there.

Gabriella Della Croce, another organizer at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, stressed the importance of gaining fair treatment in the workplace. “Immigrants’ rights is something that should be unquestionable,” she said.

Lesbia Vidot, a member of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said she hears complaints that immigrants are taking American jobs. However, Americans would not want the jobs that immigrants are working, she remarked. Vidot said she has heard of immigrants who are treated poorly and underpaid on the job.

“The employers are using the immigrants,” Vidot said. “It is hard for everybody.”

Vidot, who works as a patient care assistant, moved to the area from Puerto Rico about 10 years ago in search of a better future for her sons, the youngest of whom is now 12.

The day Donald Trump was elected president, Vidot said, her 12-year-old son cried. She said he was worried for the safety of his one of his schoolmates, who is from Mexico.

“We are equal. It doesn’t matter our gender, our race, where we came from — we are the same human beings,” Vidot said.

Holly Richardson, representing Out Now, an organization based in Springfield to support LGBTQ families, emphasized the added struggle that those immigrants face.

If someone is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Richardson explained, there is a chance the person could be placed in a detention facility that does not match their gender identity.

Richardson plans to participate at the May 1 events with others from Out Now.

In her speech, Sierra said she hopes the strike will raise consciousness and improve workplace conditions. The Pioneer Valley Workers Center will, she said, work with others to make Springfield a sanctuary city, put an end to deportations, legalize undocumented immigrants and establish a living wage of $15 per hour.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy