Jersey City, NJ – New Jersey Filipinos held an online town hall meeting to discuss the Filipino-American Agenda last February 28. The town hall was attended by more than 30 participants from 15 Filipino organizations representing immigrant workers, women, students, young professionals and many more. The Agenda is a list of demands addressing the needs and concerns of Filipinos in the United States.
The New Jersey town hall is part of a nationwide effort initiated by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) alongside the Filipino-American youth and student alliance Kabataan Alliance to develop the Filipino-American Agenda. They aim to build unity within the Filipino community along common concerns and advocacies and will send the Agenda to the Biden-Harris administration within its first 100 days.
The town hall featured Councilman-at-Large, Rolando Lavarro, and Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ), Amy Torres. Lavarro spoke about housing issues in Jersey City. While Torres spoke about immigration issues in the state. Both issues were identified as a major concern for the Filipino community in New Jersey.
“There is an affordable housing crisis that threatens to push out Jersey City’s working families of all backgrounds, but especially Black and Brown people, including Filipinos, immigrant communities, and the most vulnerable. We are not afforded the same respect and dignity that politicians give other communities. We need to ask ourselves what our city would look like if it made housing for the poor and working families a priority? What would our city look like if we cultivate jobs for our working class?” shared Councilman Lavarro on the housing issue.
Other highlights of the town hall were testimonies from community members. “The year Trump was elected, my application to renew my visa was denied. I felt like I lost my personhood, my dignity and the small freedoms I had just because the state decided not to issue a piece of paper. My needs as a person remain the same even when I became out of status,” said Anne, a member of Migrante New Jersey, on her experience as an undocumented immigrant. “Equal opportunity for all, especially for basic needs just like IDs and healthcare must be demanded from our government. This will immediately address the needs of Filipino working class migrants in the U.S,” she concluded.
“I am worried about the minimum wage. Currently, it’s just not enough. It also ties to harsh and unsafe workplaces caused by understaffing. We are working faster. Working more. We are overworked and underpaid. During the pandemic, as essential workers, we are putting ourselves on the line to ensure that businesses and the economy keeps moving while the state and our employer neglects the health and safety of workers like us,” saidMatthew, a fast food worker who shared their testimony. “We need higher wages and stronger protection for workers rights to organize.” He concluded.
The Filipino-American Agenda includes sections on workers’ and economic rights, immigrant rights, and the demands of youth and students, women, LGBTQ+ community, educators, and small businesses.
The Agenda also includes a section on foreign policy regarding US-Philippines relations. “The human rights crisis in the Philippines is a Filipino American issue. The power is in our hands to demand from our elected officials that they use our US tax dollars to address the needs of our communities here in New Jersey, and not to line the pockets of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, the murderous dictator. We need to get our representatives and senators to support the Philippine Human Rights Act, which aims to suspend US military aid going toward Duterte’s grave human rights violations,” said Bernadette, a member of the Malaya Movement New Jersey.
After the testimonies, participants broke out into discussion groups to provide input and add on to the Filipino-American Agenda. Community participants and organizations resolved to support the Filipino-American Agenda, as well as continue working towards the promotion and realization of its demands through political advocacy. They also resolved to unite various Filipino organizations and the broader Filipino community in New Jersey around the Agenda’s goals.
A National Townhall is set to be held on March 21 to finalize the Agenda. NAFCON and Kabataan Alliance aim to ensure that the voices and concerns of the Filipino community in the United States are heard from the grassroots to the federal government. ###
To see the current draft of the Filipino-American Agenda, you can visit www.nafconusa.org.
We’d like to invite you to the New Jersey Town Hall Meeting on the Filipino-American Agenda. It is set on February 28, 4pm-6pm. This Town Hall meeting will be held via Zoom.
This town hall is part of a nation-wide effort that aims to unite Filipinos to push for change around immediate and long-time concerns of the Filipino community. We will be having presentations on various issues such as immigration, housing, and workers rights. We will then have break out discussions to share ideas and discuss the Fil-Am Agenda and unite on changes that the Filipino community in the U.S. wants to see.
Councilman at Large Rolando Lavarro – on the housing situation in Jersey City
Amy Torres, Executive Director, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) – on the immigration situation
What: New Jersey Town Hall Meeting on the Fil-Am Agenda
When: February 28, Sunday, 4pm-6pm
Where: Zoom (Online)
Who: Filipino community members and organizations across New Jersey
For more information and/or questions, please email us at email@example.com. Maraming salamat po and we hope to see you at the townhall.
Iniimbitahan namin kayong lahat sa Pulong Bayan tungkol sa Filipino-American Agenda sa darating na Sabado, Feb. 28, 4pm-6pm. Ang Pulong Bayan na ito ay gaganapin sa zoom/online.
Ang Pulong Bayan na ito ay parte ng isang pambansang pagsisikap na pagkaisahin ang mga Pilipino dito sa U.S. na isulong ang mga pagbabago tungkol sa mga kagyat at pangmatagalang suliranin na kinakaharap ng ating komunidad. Magkakaroon tayo ng mga presentasyon tungkol sa iba’t-ibang isyu tulad ng immigration, pabahay/housing, at karapatan ng mga manggagawa. Magkakaroon din tayo ng mga breakout discussion para magpalitan ng mga ideya at talakayin ang Fil-Am Agenda at magkaisa sa mga pagbabagong gusto nating isulong.
Tampok na magsasalita:
Councilman at Large Rolando Lavarro – tungkol sa sitwasyon ng pabahay sa Jersey City
Amy Torres, Executive Director, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) – tungkol sa kalagayan ng mga migrante
Ano: New Jersey Town Hall Meeting on the Fil-Am Agenda
Kailan: February 28, Sunday, 4pm-6pm
Saan: Zoom (Online)
Sino: Filipino community members and organizations across New Jersey
BAYAN New Jersey organizations Anakbayan North Jersey, Gabriela New Jersey, Anakbayan Rutgers, and Migrante New Jersey condemn the brutal state repression of solidarity protesters outside Bergen County Jail and rise in full solidarity with the detainees who are on hunger strike since November 13. In stride with our comrades in the Abolish ICE NY/NJ coalition, we amplify the call for the release of all detainees and the shutdown of immigration jails, as well as the end of forced migration and the U.S. imperialist system.
To justify this brazen state repression, Bergen County police held a shameful press conference on Sunday accusing the protesters of unruly behavior. Officials justified inaction on the demands of the prisoners by citing that the majority of those incarcerated have criminal charges. In reality, mass criminalization and incarceration are measures taken by the state to systematically oppress working-class Black and brown people, perpetuating an underclass in the United States. In this unceasing pandemic, detainees live in wretched conditions including uncontrolled rat infestations, unsanitary conditions, and overcrowded buildings that make physical distancing impossible. For New Jersey to not release incarcerated people is egregious without doubt, regardless of their records.
The terroristic use of force against protesters and hypocritical assertion of ensuring safety against “criminals” and terrorists” are tried-and-tested tactics of the state. The charges facing New Jersey protesters echo a similar tune to the trumped up charges and allegations of terrorism facing many activists and leaders in the Philippines, which have ramped up since the passage of Duterte’s Anti-Terror Law. From the Philippines to New Jersey, we share a common enemy in a police state hellbent on controlling and intimidating its people. More importantly we share a common struggle and resistance. It is through this commonality we are called to stand in solidarity, both locally and as part of the Filipino diaspora.
Moreover, “illegal” migration to this country must be contextualized in the global, political, and economic situation. Migrants and refugees are fleeing from underdeveloped nations in Latin America, Africa and Asia to places like the United States because of the inherent lopsidedness of the imperialist system, which leaves the majority of the world’s people in poverty. While the imperialist United States is seeing the emergence of ultra-wealthy centi-billionaires, the majority of the country and the world struggle to put food on the table. It is no wonder then that people migrate to wealthier nations like the United States in search of a livelihood, only to be incarcerated and exploited for their labor behind prison bars.
Though most of the detainees in Bergen County Jail have ended their hunger strike, the struggle continues. Despite being transferred to the immigration jail in Batavia, NY, two hunger strikers carry on and are inspiring many others both in detention and out in the community. In celebration of International Migrants Day, National Democratic organizations in New Jersey will be joining our allies for a Free Them All Car Caravan to on Friday, December 18, 2pm-4pm.
As Filipinos in New Jersey, we see our struggle as part of a larger struggle for the liberation of migrants and all oppressed and poor people. We demand the release of all detainees and the shutdown of all immigration jails in New Jersey. We must also address the roots of forced migration, which means an end to U.S. imperialism and the building of a socialist society.
Calls to action (See flyers below):
Commemorate International Migrants Day through a global online rally. Attend on December 17 9 AM EST. Register here.
Join the car caravan that connects immigration detention facilities in NJ to demand #FreeThemAll with no transfers or deportations. December 18 2 PM to 4 PM. Register here.
Join the Night of Popular Resistance cultural night on Sunday, December 20 at 1:30 PM to 7 PM @ 160 S River St., Hackensack NJ 07601
Anakbayan North Jersey, Anakbayan Rutgers, GABRIELA New Jersey, and Migrante New Jersey vehemently condemn the expansion of the Hudson County detention system for the continued criminalization and torture of migrants & refugees. As members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), we stand against all collaborations between Immigrant & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the state, and assert that only the building of a powerful anti-imperialist grassroots migrant movement will truly bring down the detention walls and end the suffering of millions of migrants forced to leave their homes.
During nine hours of public comments, nearly 200 activists, lawyers, clergy people, former ICE detainees, and elected officials from NJ gave testimonies and urged the freeholders to vote no. Yet, at the end of a record breaking 12 hour long meeting, the Hudson County Freeholders voted yes, 6-3, to renew a 10-year contract with ICE.
We are moved by the community for bravely retelling their stories, and we stand with the countless organizations and advocates within the Abolish ICE NY/NJ Coalition for their tireless fight against this ICE contract. It breaks our hearts to see that despite hearing the 200 testimonies against the continuation of the contract, Freeholders Albert Cifelli, Kenneth Kopacz, Caridad Rodriguez, Anthony Romano, Anthony Vainieri, and Jerry Walker voted yes to renewing the contract. These freeholders have unveiled that they are nothing more than puppets that administer and perpetuate the exploitation and oppression of working-class migrants.
We must remember that this renewal of the ICE contract and enduring relationship between Hudson County and ICE is part of the larger imperialist system. This system is designed to squeeze every cent from the hardship and sacrifices of poor people who are displaced from their home countries to find sustenance abroad because of the lack of livelihood to sustain themselves and their families. The carceral system under the imperialist state profits from the caging and criminalization of innocent Black and Brown people, who have been especially devastated by COVID-19 these last months.
The U.S. as the dominant imperialist power has had a direct hand in destabilizing countries like the Philippines, by extracting natural resources, monopolizing industries and exploiting workers, peasants and farmers. In the Philippines, this migration has been systematized into a Labor Export program that puts the burden of economic development and paying off massive global loans onto migrants. Local governments have incentives to profit from forced migration by filling beds in ICE detention facilities. The imperialist machine works hand-in-hand with the prison industrial complex, whose only function is to criminalize and dehumanize Black, Brown, Indigenous, people of color in order to provide cheap labor for the capitalist ruling class. This cannot be boiled down to the moral choice of a handful of individuals but rather, is a part of the imperialist system that enacts violence on migrants in our very own backyards.
We call on all grassroots migrant organizations and groups in New Jersey to unite all struggles against imperialism to address the root causes of forced migration! We must also come together to hold our freeholders and other government officials accountable — because it is only through the strength, organization, and unity of the people that real and concrete change towards the elimination of forced migration and imperialism can be seen through.
Every day, and at every turn, the people are realizing that taking action and fighting for the rights of all oppressed people is the only option to see and realize a better future. We celebrate the 200 people who gave testimonials at this meeting. It is a testimony to the painstaking organizing that gave way for such a display of people power. As national democratic mass organizations and member organizations of IMA, we will continue to link up with the people’s organizations in the fight against ICE as part and parcel in the struggle against imperialism.
We are in solidarity with all detainees and will continue to link arms with all migrants, refugees, and displaced people in their fight to put an end to all detention centers, cages and the likewise; as well as their struggle for migrant rights! Let’s grow the grassroots migrants movement from New Jersey to our homelands to end forced migration.
Calls to Action:
Join the action in solidarity with the nine detainees at Bergen County Jail on a hunger strike to demand their release this Friday, November 27 at 1 PM outside of the Bergen County Jail
Workers, Community Groups, Advocacy Organizations, and Labor Unions Hail Gov. Murphy’s Workplace Protection Executive Order as “Key First Step” to Ensure Worker Safety During the Pandemic
Executive Order Mandates Workplace Protections and Creates New Enforcement Process at NJDOL to Protect all NJ Workers During COVID-19 Coalition Will Continue to Push for Right to Refuse Unsafe Work through Legislation
October 28, 2020 – Trenton, NJ: After a six-month campaign to urge Governor Murphy to use his emergency powers to take executive action to protect NJ workers during the pandemic, the Protect NJ Workers Coalition celebrates Governor Murphy’s signing of a Worker Protection Executive Order. The Coalition is led by BIPOC activists and essential workers, with members from a wide-range of community groups, advocacy and labor organizations.
The new Worker Protection Executive Order (EO), which goes into effect November 5th at 6am, will mandate key protections for workers and require that employers implement social distancing protocols, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), create a worker notification program if an employee tests positive for COVID, implement mandatory times for handwashing, sanitizing and cleaning of workplaces and follow current state and federal laws to provide paid sick time off when necessary. The new EO will apply to all New Jersey workers in the public and private sectors. The Department of Labor will host a new webpage with information regarding the EO and where workers can file complaints for violations of workplace health and safety. The NJ Department of Labor and the NJ Department of Health will be charged with investigating complaints and holding employers accountable to the requirements of the EO.
The EO also includes a worker health and safety training program that the Protect NJ Workers Coalition advocated and fought for. It will be coordinated and carried out by Rutgers University and worker leaders from the Coalition. The training program provides workers with critical information to help them identify COVID-19 related workplace health and safety hazards and gives them the tools to speak up when violations are not resolved by their employers.
“As an essential worker who became sick during the pandemic and lost my job, I know first hand the importance of strong worker protections. My employer didn’t give me any protective equipment and did not abide by social distancing protocols. Enforceable standards save lives. Thank you Governor Murphy, Commissioner Asaro-Angelo and Commissioner Persichilli for your leadership. We are grateful to the members of the Protect NJ Workers Coalition and to frontline workers across New Jersey for fighting for respect, dignity and safety for all and we will continue to fight until we win the right to refuse unsafe work for all workers,” Tania Gonzlaez, member of Make the Road New Jersey.
“We are thankful that Governor Murphy is expanding protections for more workers in New Jersey through this Executive Order, as our health as workers is a public health issue,” said Reynalda Cruz , hotel worker and member of New Labor. “But for even more protection, we have to keep fighting until we have the right to refuse unsafe work without retaliation guaranteed and codified.”
“As an essential worker I was exposed during the pandemic, risking my life and then fired for demanding more protection. Today, we uphold health and safety enforceable standards for all workers in NJ. We are organizing to show other workers that we need to stand up without fear. This is a good beginning and we understand there much more to fight”, said Baldemar Manzano, with the Laundry Workers Center.
“We applaud Governor Murphy for issuing today’s Executive Order to expand protections to all New Jersey workers — this is a substantial first step toward ensuring safeguards on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bruce Miller, United for Respect Leader. “We’re optimistic about the launch of a worker health and safety training program that’s rightfully anchored by worker leaders of the Protect NJ Workers Coalition. However, we must continue to fight employer retaliation by granting right of refusal protections for essential workers and building a co-enforcement structure where workers have the authority to formally hold non-compliant employers accountable.”
“We appreciate that this Executive Order expands protections to all workers during this national public health crisis and that workers now have more tools and resources available to them as they fight for safe and healthy working conditions for themselves and their communities.” said Meghan Hurley, Policy and Advocacy Organizer for CATA – The Farmworker Support Committee. “We will continue to work together as a coalition to make sure that workers are able to report and address violations and that employers are held accountable.”
“Workers fought for months to make their voices heard, about the lack of enforceable workplace protections during the pandemic. And the blatant failure of the federal government meant that Governor Murphy had to take action”, said Yarrow Willman-Cole with New Jersey Citizen Action and the NJ Time to Care Coalition. “Today we are happy to stand with Governor Murphy to protect workers and we thank him for responding to the call to action by signing this Executive Order. This crisis requires strong action with real teeth to protect the most vulnerable workers and to hold accountable the most unscrupulous employers. We will continue to push for stronger enforcement and demand that our legislators give workers a real ability to speak up with the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work legislation, an Emergency Paid Sick Days bill and other needed solutions.”
‘WEC is proud to stand with our allies in the Protecting NJ Workers Coalition and thank Governor Murphy for signing this Executive Order. This pandemic is far from over and we will continue to advocate for strong COVID protections for workers so they aren’t put in the position to have to choose between feeding their family and risking their health,” said Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, NJ Work Environment Council.
“We commend Governor Murphy for taking a strong first step to protect all New Jersey workers to keep them, their families and their communities safe and healthy,” said Kevin Brown, SEIU 32BJ Vice President and head of the union’s New Jersey division. “As we move into a new phase in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, we will work with the Governor and both union and non-union employers in the state to make sure everyone complies with and is accountable for vital safety measures.”
“All workers deserve safe working conditions, especially now as we face a second wave of the pandemic,” said Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). “As workplaces are potential sites of COVID-19 transmission, state lawmakers must do everything possible to ensure workers and their families are safe, and that workers whose safety is put at risk at no fault of their own have access to recourse. Strong workplace protections are essential to the state’s overall health and economic recovery. NJPP applauds the leadership of workers and Governor Murphy for taking this critical step toward strengthening workplace safety, and we look forward to partnering with worker centers, labor unions, and state officials to ensure these safety standards are fully enforced.”
The Executive Order and establishment of a worker health and safety training program is a testament to the power of workers, worker representatives and worker advocates. Workers – especially low-wage and workers of color – contend with the most dire consequences of this pandemic, and they are demanding that our leaders take action to protect them. However, the effort is not complete. The EO is just the first step to ensure that workers are empowered to name when the conditions of their work are unsafe and made deadly by a virus that is currently resurging.
Specifically, workers need the right to refuse to work if workplace conditions put their health and safety at risk, either because the employer has not taken sufficient measures to reduce their employees’ exposure to communicable disease or other similarly serious hazards. Currently, if workers stop working because of such conditions, they lose pay or could be fired. The Right to Refuse bill (A4268) would protect workers’ jobs and incomes when they alert their employer to unsafe conditions and it establishes a 24-hotline to quickly resolve problems. The Right to Refuse bill would empower workers to exercise their fundamental right to work in a safe workplace.
The Protect NJ Workers Coalition will continue to fight for legislation to grant workers the “Right to Refuse”, and call upon the legislature to additional action on other measures in the Worker Pandemic Protection package of legislation, including Emergency Paid Sick Days, the Right to First Refusal, the expansion of Good Cause for Unemployment, and the Farmworker Epidemic Health and Safety Act.
Tomorrow (Thursday) at noon, the Coalition to Protect NJ Workers will host a zoom press conference to announce a worker training program: https://zoom.us/j/4757726786.
The Protect NJ Workers Coalition is a diverse coalition of workers, worker centers, community groups, advocacy organizations, and labor unions, dedicated to expanding worker protections for all New Jersey workers providing them with emergency paid sick days, a hotline for reporting unsafe work & a process to investigate & resolve unsafe working conditions. The coalition includes Make the Road New Jersey, New Labor, the Laundry Workers’ Center, New Jersey Citizen Action, Wind of the Spirit, the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, SEIU 32BJ, Laundry, Distribution & Food Service Joint Board of Workers United/SEIU, the New Jersey Work Environment Council, United for Respect, NJ21United, CATA – The Farmworker Support Committee, Migrante New Jersey, Unidad Latina en Acción, Newark Water Coalition.
In honor of International Workers Day, Migrante New Jersey, an organization that aims to advance the rights of migrant Filipino workers, with the support of National Democratic Filipino organizations and other progressive NJ organizations mobilized a solidarity caravan to support and join with the struggles of essential workers, promote their rights, and condemn ongoing violations during the COVID-19 crisis. May 1st is International Workers’ Day or “May Day,” an international holiday which began as a celebration of a strike for the eight-hour work day and continues to be a day of resistance for workers and labor organizing.
Several actions took place on Friday, May 1st to protest various businesses in Jersey City, New Brunswick, and Morristown that are violating workers’ rights amidst the COVID-19 crisis. From 11 AM to 7 PM, members of various activist and community organizations drove to several workplaces and made noise and delivered speeches to support and amplify the workers’ calls for better working conditions.
“Dahil ako ay isa ring manggagawa na nakikiisa sa pagbigay parangal sa lahat ng mga manggagawa sa buong mundo dahil sa inyong mga sakripisyo lalo na ngayon sa panahon ng pandemya. Ako ay sumusuporta lalo na sa mga manggagawa sa NJ na kumakaharap o nakakaranas ngayon ng mga paglabag sa kanilang mga karapatan at kagalingan.” said Lorena McRae, Migrante New Jersey Secretary General.
As of April 26th, the Jersey City COVID-19 statistics are as follows: 272 deaths; at Jersey City Medical Center, 108 Covid/PUI (Person Under Investigation) on that date; and at Christ Hospital, 104 Covid/PUI cases on that date. The total New Jersey COVID-19 deaths are at 5,863 (4/27/20). In terms of Jersey City cases are at 4,637 (4/25/20) 4,975 (4/27/20).
The cause of mass migration from the Philippines for work dates back to the 1970s, in which the Philippine government attempted to address severe systemic poverty by passing Labor Export Policy (LEP), which promoted exporting Filipino laborers to wealthier countries as a way to encourage a flow of remittance money to bolster the economy. Human rights organizations have long criticized LEP as it puts Filipino workers in vulnerable working conditions. In the US, Filipino migrant workers have regularly faced low wages and wage theft, minimal rights as non-citizens, and vulnerability to human trafficking, among other struggles. Now, conditions of neglect have been exacerbated in the pandemic. According to Migrante NJ’s investigations, various workplaces dependent on Filipino migrants are neglecting to inform workers of paid time off and earned sick leave, telling workers to self-quarantine without pay, neglecting to communicate about sanitizing workplaces, and neglecting to enforce social distancing protocols at the workplace, among various other violations. These violations put Filipino workers financially at-risk, make them unable to provide remittance money to send to family in the Philippines, and endanger their lives.
“We stand in solidarity with the frontline workers who are suffering from the crushing effects of neoliberalism and capitalism that have left them to fend for themselves with unsafe work conditions and navigating a for-profit healthcare system, while struggling to meet their basic needs such as rent, food, or even unplanned medical bills,” said Shaira, Interim Secretary General of Gabriela New Jersey.
Joining the caravan were other organizations across NJ who have seen similar workplace abuses across various communities and industries. Among the organizations were Gabriela New Jersey, an organization that supports Filipino working women; Anakbayan North Jersey and Anakbayan Rutgers; organizations of progressive Filipino youth within their respective regions, Movimiento Cosecha, an organization fighting to advance the rights of undocumented immigrants; New Labor, an organization that educates, organizes and fights for better working conditions; and Solidarity Jersey City, a people’s resistance network made in response to COVID-19. Together they rallied at Filipino-owned businesses, a health center, and other businesses that are largely dependent on immigrant workers. The unifying call was to express gratitude to all essential workers by exposing the injustices that are happening in these workplaces and by encouraging the workers to continue to stand up for their right to fair pay and safer work protocols as part of a larger process of ending exploitative work practices for all.
People Over Profit! Healthcare & Social Services, Not War! Mass Testing, Not Mass Exploitation! Power to the workers! Socialism is the cure!
Ngayong Mayo Uno, pinagpupugayan namin ang lahat ng mga manggagawa sa buong daigdig sa paggunita ng Pandaigdigang Araw ng mga Manggagawa. Sa gitna ng pandemya at lumalalang krisis pang-ekonomya sa buong daigdig, ating ipinagdiriwang ang mahigit na 134 na taon ng Mayo Uno sa tuloy-tuloy na pakikibaka ng mga manggagawa sa buong daigdig para sa ating karapatan at kagalingan bilang pangunahing tagapaglikha ng yaman ng daigdig. Kalahok ang mga migranteng Pilipino mula sa New York at New Jersey sa pag-alala ng makasaysayang papel ng mga manggagawa sa pagwawakas ng mapagsamantalang sistema na patuloy na nagpapahirap sa mayorya ng mamamayan ng daigdig.
Ang krisis ng impeyalismong Estados Unidos at pagdausdos ng pandaigdigang ekonomya ay nagdulot ng mas malaking pangangailangan sa murang lakas paggawa. Lalo pang lumakas ang pagtulak sa mga manggagawa sa mga mahihirap na bansa tulad ng Pilipinas na mangibang bayan sa anyo ng mga neoliberal na patakaran sa labor eksport. Bago pa man ang paglaganap ng pandemya sa maraming bansa, hindi na maitago ang matindi at lumalalang krisis pang-ekonomya at pampulitika sa buong daigdig at lalo pang pinalala ng kasalukuyang pandemya.
Ang mga migranteng manggagawang Pilipino ay lubhang nakakaranas ng direktang atake ng mga anti-manggagawa at anti-migranteng polisiya ni Trump at Duterte dulot ng kapabayaan ng gobyerno sa kabila ng malaking kontribusyon nito sa ekonomya hindi lamang sa Estados Unidos kundi maging sa Pilipinas.
Ang mga manggagawang Pilipino ay nahihirapan makakuha ng sapat na kagamitan panlaban sa pandemya lalo na dito sa New York at New Jersey na tinataguriang “epicenter”. Sa malawakang paglaganap ng pandemyang COVID-19, malawakan ring tinamaan ang mga manggagawang Pilipino lalong lalo na ang mga manggagawang pangkalusugan, mga manggagawang patuloy na nagbibigay ng serbisyo sa gitna ng panganib o ang mga tinatawag nating Frontliners. Partikular sa Hilagang-Silangan (Northeast) ng Estados Unidos may 50 Pilipino na ang naitalang nagbuwis ng buhay dahil sa pandemya ayon sa Consul General ng Philippine Consulate General ng New York. Mula sa 50 na nagbuwis ng buhay, 18 dito ang mga frontliners na duktor, nars, mga transport workers ng ospital, laboratory technicians at iba pa.
Sa gitna ng panganib sa kalusugan, dinaranas ng migranteng manggagawang Pilipino ang kawalang kasiguraduhan sa trabaho at kawalan ng malinaw na impormasyon hinggil sa kanilang karapatan sa kasalukuyang pandemya. Marami sa kanila ay mga “essential workers” sa mga food supply warehouse, laboratories, restaurants, healthcare industry, construction at domestic work. Marami ang humaharap sa isyu ng wage theft at kalakhan ay hindi binabayaran ng paid sick leave at hazard pay sa kabila nang pagsuong sa panganib na magkasakit. Nagpapatuloy ang maraming bilang ng mga manggagawa sa kanilang trabaho hindi lamang sa kadahilanang “essential worker” sila kundi maging sa takot na mawalan ng trabaho sa panahon na ito na walang kasiguraduhan.
Ramdam ng migranteng manggagawang Pilipino ang mga paglabag sa kanilang karapatan sa paggawa habang pikit matang sinusuong ang panganib upang patuloy na masuportahan hindi lamang ang kanilang batayang mga pangangailangan kundi maging ng kani-kanilang mga pamilya sa Pilipinas. Kung hindi dahil sa Labor Export Policy o ang sadyang pagbenta at paglabas ng mga manggagawang Pilipino para pagsamantalahan sa ibang bansa, ay hindi sana magiging watak-watak ang maraming pamilyang Pilipino. Kapalit ng masaklap na kundisyon ng mga pamilya ay ang remittances ng mga Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW,) na naging napakalaking ambag sa ekonomya ng Pilipinas. Sa kasalukuyan, marami sa mga kababayan nating OFW na hanggang ngayon ay patuloy pa ring naghihintay sa ipinangakong ayuda ng gobyerno.
Kasama na rin sa hanay ng mga OFW ang lumulobong bilang ng mga kabataang migranteng Pilipino dito sa Amerika na J1 visa holder ang nangibang-bansa dulot ng kakulangan ng nakabubuhay at sapat na oportunidad at trabaho sa Pilipinas. Ang mga kabataang Pilipino na ito ay mas pinili ang landas na magsakripisyo sa labas ng bansa dala ang pangako ng kanilang mga rekruter na maginhawang buhay para sa kani-kanilang pamilya. Hinaharap nila ang matitinding kundisyon sa pagtatrabaho, hindi pantay na pagtrato ng employer, iba’t ibang anyo ng panggigipit at pagsasamantala ng kanilang mga rekruter. Sa kasalukuyan, may naitalang higit kumulang sa 100 na mga bagong migranteng kabataang Pilipino na J1 visa holder sa buong Amerika ang malubhang naapektuhan ng krisis ng COVID-19. Ang kanilang sigla ay mabilis na napalitan ng lungkot at pagkadismaya, dahil wala silang makuhang suporta mula sa kahit alinmang ahensya ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas at ng Estados Unidos.
Dagdag pa sa pinapasan ng ating mga migranteng manggagawa sa New York at New Jersey ang usapin ng kalusugan at kaligtasan sa gitna ng pandemya. Marami sa ating mga kababayan ang itinuturing na essential workers ang hindi nabibigyan ng proteksyon pangkalusugan habang patuloy na napupwersahang mag-hanapbuhay dahil sa kawalan ng kasiguraduhang makakuha ng benepisyo at ayuda mula sa gobyerno lalong lalo na ang mga “undocumented” nating mga kababayan. Sa simula ng pandemyang ito, marami sa mga kababayan nating essential workers ang na-expose sa sakit na COVID-19 ngunit nagpapatuloy pa rin sa pagtatrabaho sa gitna ng kawalan at kakulangan ng Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) dahil sa takot na mawalan ng hanapbuhay.
Kamakailan lamang, isang Pilipinong manggagawa sa Queens, New York na si David Galicia ang napabalitang napatay ang kanyang ina at sinubukang kitilin ang kanyang sariling buhay. Ayon sa mga pulis makikita na sya ay “emotionally disturbed” at hindi pa malaman ang motibo ng pagpatay sa ina. Bago pa man ang insidente, batay sa mga kakilala, si David ay tumutulong sa pangangailangan ng kanyang ina simula nang ito ay mag-positibo sa Covid-19. Sa kadahilanang ito, hindi nakaligtas si David sa stigma ukol sa COVID-19 dahil sa kawalan ng sapat na impormasyon dulot ng sakit. Nabanggit ng mga kakilala ni David na nagkaroon ito ng epekto sa kanyang mental health.
Ang karanasan ni David Galicia ay hindi hiwalay na kaso. Marami sa ating kababayan ang nakakaramdam ng bigat at sakit dahil sa iba’t ibang epekto ng kasalukuyang pandemya. Isa na rito ang walang natanggap na ayuda mula sa gobyerno at ang sobrang pag-aalala kung paano isusustine ang kanilang pang araw-araw na pangangailangan at ng kanilang pamilya. Ang ganitong kadahilanan ang ilan sa nakakaapekto sa mental health ng ating mga kababayan kaya ang iba ay wala nang nakikitang paraaan kundi ang kitilin ang sariling buhay. Iniiwan silang nakabitin ng parehong gobyernong Duterte at Trump.
Sa Pilipinas, ang malalang kagipitan at ang sobrang pagsasamantala sa mga manggagawa ay nagsisilbing panggatong sa umiigting na apoy ng paglaban ng mga manggagawang Pilipino para sa mas malaya at makatarungang kinabukasan. Sa gitna ng matinding krisis dulot ng COVID-19, tuloy pa rin ang pakikibaka ng mga manggagawang Pilipino dahil batid nila na ang tunay na ugat ng krisis pangkalusugan ay ang panlipunang krisis na hatid ng mga taksil at pasistang patakaran ng rehimeng US-Duterte.
Kasama sa mga patakarang ito ang sapilitang lockdown ng mga mamamayan na wala namang sapat na pagpaplano at ayuda para sa karamihan ng mga magsasaka, manggagawa, at maralitang lungsod. Sa halip na matugunan ng rehimen ang mga kagyat na kahilingan ng karamihan, ay higit pang pinahihirapan ang taumbayan sa mapanupil at mapagparusang “Enhanced Community Quarantine” na mahigpit at malupit na pinangungunahan ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP,) at Philippine National Police (PNP.) Sa halip na bigas, bala; sa halip na tulong, kulong ang inihahatid ng rehimeng Duterte sa mga mamamayan.
Ang dinaranas ng mga manggagawang Pilipino sa ibayong dagat ay hindi hiwalay sa dinaranas ng mga kababayan nating manggagawa sa Pilipinas. Tanging ang ating sama-samang pagkilos ang ating maaasahan sa panahon ng krisis at kahirapan. Nasa atin ang lahat ng karapatan upang manindigan para sa ating mga batayang karapatan. Dapat nating ipaglaban at tamasahin ang karapatan na dapat ay para sa atin. Sama-sama nating singilin ang rehimeng US-Duterte para sa ayudang nararapat para sa lahat ng mga manggagawa at migranteng Pilipino.
Sa araw na ito, kalahok at kaisa ang mga migranteng manggagawa Pilipino mula sa New York at New Jersey ng mga manggagawa sa buong daigdig sa muling pagguhit sa kasaysayan ng ating boses at pagkilos sa pagdiriwang ng Mayo Uno.
Mabuhay ang Uring Manggawa! Makibaka Huwag Matakot! #ProtectFrontlineWorkers #PPEandMassTestingForAll! Kasiguruhan sa trabaho para sa lahat! Hazard Pay for all essential workers! #OFWAssistanceNow! #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar Panagutin ang rehimeng US-Duterte sa kanilang kapabayaan! #OustDuterte
Jersey City, NJ – More than 30 activists, supporters and community members unfurled a banner that says “Never again to martial law” as they stood at the 9/11 memorial fountain at Journal Square, Jersey City. The community vigil aimed to extend solidarity to the victims of a terrorist attacks in the Philippines as well as condemn President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law.
On May 23, President Duterte placed the whole of Mindanao, one of the three major islands of the Philippines, under martial law. This was after an undetermined number of armed men from the Maute group, an alleged ISIS affiliated terrorist group launched an attack in Marawi, Lanao Del Sur. Both the attack and the declaration of martial law has has raised concerns from the Jersey City Filipino community.
“Gabriela New Jersey stands in solidarity with the people of Marawi and the people of Mindanao. We condemn the attacks on the people of Marawi. But we also condemn President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Martial law is not the answer to the conflicts occurring in the region. Militarization of communities leads to increased violence against women and displacement, [and] it increases the vulnerability of women and children to military abuse as well other human rights abuses,” said Ren Clacer, Chairperson of GABRIELA New Jersey.
“I don’t support the Maute group, I don’t support terror groups, but at the same time I don’t support Martial Law in Mindanao. Defense Secretary Lorenza said that they declared martial law in Mindanao to solve all the problems in Mindanao. In my opinion, Martial Law in Mindanao won’t solve all problems, rather it will create more problems,” said Bobby Young of Migrante New Jersey, a Mindanaoan hailing from Cagayan De Oro. “The problems of peace and order, the problem of poverty, illegal logging, destructive mining, landlessness, social inequity, self determination can’t be solve by martial law or it will never be solved by martial law or by a military rule,” Young continued.
Activists also raised concerns about possible U.S. hand on the terrorist attack. “We condemn the attacks carried out by the Maute group in Marawi. They claim to have affiliations with Abu Sayyaf and ISIS. These are the very same groups that the CIA had trained to cause disruption among communities asserting their self-determination. US and Philippine militarization has spawned terrorist groups in the Philippines that are now being used as scapegoats to further curtail the civil rights of the people.” said Rodrigo Bacus of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns Northeast (NAFCON NE).
Maricar Taino, chapter president of the New Jersey Philippine American Junior Chambers International, reminded everyone that peace is possible. “The struggle for freedom and democracy has been marked by violence resulting in considerable loss of lives and property all over the world. Terror cannot be ended by terrorizing. A community in fear takes out hope and finds that lasting peace is becoming more of a dream. We have to believe that peace is possible. By believing is to act and advocate that we stand for a Just and peaceful negotiations. Peace ensures human dignity and we must unite to choose peace is possible. “Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but the prevalence of justice”
Laura Austria of Anakbayan New Jersey, a Filipino youth and student organization, demanded for genuine solution to the conflict. “We demand that our leaders to address the root causes of the conflict in the Philippines rather than default to heavy-handed military tactics through the declaration of martial law. Filipinos in the US must express our collective indignation by signing the attached petition below. To truly stand with Marawi, we must create a genuine solution to the people’s struggles and advocate for a truly just and lasting peace in the Philippines.”
The community vigil was ended with the singing of “Bayan Ko”, a song popularized during the anti-Marcos dictatorship, and the chanting of “never again, never again to martial law!” Community resolved to continue conducting awareness campaigns in Jersey City about the armed conflicts happening in Mindanao as well as the dangers of martial law.
The community vigil was attended by Anakbayan New Jersey, Gabriela New Jersey, Migrante New Jersey, New Jersey Philippine American Junior Chambers International, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, FANG Collective, as well as BAYAN USA – Northeast.
More than 50 community members attended a town hall forum last Sunday at the Philippine Community Center in Jersey City, aimed at tackling the impacts of the Trump administration on the Filipino community. The town hall forum was held a couple of days after Donald Trump signed a series of anti-immigrant executive orders.
“The recent executive orders by Trump are an attack on all immigrants. The past few days have further shown the gravity of the threat that all migrant and immigrant communities are facing. It is in that context that we call on the Filipino community to come together, take a stand and link arms with other vulnerable communities to fight against what we believe is a rising fascist state,” said Nick Cordero, chairperson of Migrante New Jersey, a Filipino immigrant workers organization, in his opening remarks to the town hall forum.
President of the Philippine-American New Jersey Jaycees, Maricar Taino, said “It is important because it is when we, as a community with leaders and fellow Filipinos come closer together, unified, informed, engaged, equip and support one another of concerns and issues and committing for a sustainable solutions and development.”
The town hall forum tackled the impacts on health, reproductive rights, public education and immigration.
Atty. Cristina Godinez of the the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi spoke about Donald Trump’s controversial executive orders. “The 2 EOs are just the beginning. They are un-American not just because they go against the proud history of the US as a nation of immigrants. These EOs pose a national security risk because they drive the undocumented deeper into the shadows. Non-citizens who had or will have any encounter with law enforcement -no matter how minor- are at risk. The EO’s language is so broad that this Trump dragnet will potentially capture TNTs, those who are here as tourists, students or temporary workers, and even green card holders – most of whom are peaceful, productive members of our communities,” said Godinez.
Godinez also discussed the possible impact on the Filipino community. “The chilling effect on the Filipino American community will be palpable because among those who will be affected will be someone’s parent, child, spouse, friend or neighbor. We need to prepare and strengthen our local communities now,” Godinez ended.
After the presentations, community members broke out into discussion groups to further air their concerns and to brainstorm concrete actions that the Filipino community can take. The community concluded to work together in protecting and advancing immigrant rights and advocating for the interests of the Filipino community.
Participants then transitioned to a candlelight vigil in solidarity with those affected by the temporary ban on refugees and immigrants from the seven countries covered by Trump’s executive order. Participants held signs saying “No bans! No Walls! Filipinos stand in solidarity with Muslims and refugees” and “End forced migration, no to deportations now!” Participants also delivered speeches.
One of the participants is Ren Clacer, a member of the New Jersey Filipina Women’s Organizing Committee. “It isn’t just Trump’s disgusting treatment of women that alarms us. It is his regime’s continuation and intensification of unjust policies towards immigrants, the poor, people of color, and other marginalized groups – further oppressing people who are victims of US policies in their homelands. When we defend people’s rights, we defend women’s rights. We call Filipinos around the US to unite and organize against rising fascism and attacks on jobs, education, healthcare and other social services,” said Clacer.
Council President Rolando Lavarro also gave a message to the community. “As he did on the campaign, Trump continues to appeal to the worst in us, sowing fear and divisiveness. Trump’s executive orders unfairly target Muslims, and are an affront to Jersey City and our incredibly diverse community. We will resist and fight the hatred bigotry coming out of DC. We will stand with and protect our immigrant family in Jersey City and throughout the nation.”
Anakbayan New Jersey Chairperson, Ruthie Arroyo concluded the vigil with a challenge to the Filipino youth to get involved. “Filipino youth must be critical and play close attention to the Trump administration that is spearheading aggressive cuts to funding and access to education, our healthcare system, all while military spending to wage wars abroad will sharply increase. We must also take the next step as people who are inheriting the future and this worsening global economic crisis to fight for our rights by arousing, organizing, and mobilizing our communities. Join organizations like Anakbayan to defend the rights of Filipinos and all marginalized people.”
The town hall forum and candlelight vigil was organized by Anakbayan New Jersey, Migrante New Jersey, Filipina Women’s Organizing Committee, Philippine American New Jersey Jaycees and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
Cristina A. Godinez is an attorney who has helped non-citizens navigate U.S. immigration and nationality law for over 10 years, while advocating on behalf of highly vulnerable immigrants. She has successfully represented a trafficking victim in one of the earliest cases that led to the grant of humanitarian benefits including permanent resident status. She is an attorney at the Migrant Center of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi providing low-cost legal services to the immigrants in metro New York. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and is herself an immigrant.