Anti-Raids and Minimum Wage Protests on MLK Day

Protesters against immigrants' raids. (Photo by Victor Matos via El Diario/La Prensa)

Protesters against immigrants’ raids. (Photo by Victor Matos via El Diario/La Prensa)

On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, dozens of white, African-American and Latino activists gathered in front of a Brooklyn church to demand more protection for immigrants. “I am afraid for my community. They are the reason I am here,” said Yajaira Saavedra, a daughter of Mexicans who lives in Washington Heights. “Just like Martin Luther King, we have a dream that, one day, we will not be persecuted.”

Saavedra joined the rest of the demonstrators, who held hands to form a circle outside of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. The protest was organized by the Black Lives Matter and ICE-Free NYC organizations. The crowd was waiting for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was scheduled to attend an event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The activists demanded the end of police brutality and that undocumented people receive protection in the event of raids.


NOTE: According to some sources, protesters interrupted the mayor’s speech.


“The Black Lives Matter organization in New York understands that the militarization of the police affects both the Black community and other communities of color,” said KaLisa Moore, an activist with Peoples Power Assemblies and NYC Shut It Down. “We must show solidarity with one another in order to fight against a police state that threatens us individually and terrorizes our neighborhoods.”

Aside from demanding that ICE not be allowed in New York City and that no local agencies collaborate with them, the demonstrators asked that churches take a more active role to protect the undocumented. “Churches should be supporting immigrants, not politicians,” said Saavedra, who crossed the border when she was only 4 years old and is a beneficiary of DACA. “It is a human right to live in peace, and that is not happening because we feel persecuted.”

The organizers also demanded via press release the dismissal of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and criticized the excessive violence and criminalization by the police.

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Another story by Juan Pablo Garnham reported about a demonstration of LaGuardia Airport workers in Queens. 

(Photo via El Diario/La Prensa)

(Photo via El Diario/La Prensa)

Isabel Marte braved the low temperatures to attend a demonstration near LaGuardia Airport to demand better wages for workers like her. “I have worked in aviation for 12 years and I haven’t received one day of paid vacation,” said the 62-year-old Dominican. “We want injustice to end at these jobs and to raise our voices to let governments know the kind of life that we are leading.”

Nearly 200 workers answered the call made by union 32BJ SEIU to gather in front of the airport on Ditmars Boulevard in Queens. From there, they walked to their workplace. Twenty-five of them were arrested during the peaceful protest, where they asked for a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

“We have an unequal system at airports,” said union president Héctor Figueroa. “If you receive a salary from the Port Authority or the contractors they hire, your work is good and pays well and you have benefits. If it is the airline who hires the contractor, your salary is meager.”

Marte falls in the latter category. She is a wheelchair assistant for a company called Aviation Safeguard and makes $10.10 per hour. She is raising two daughters who still live with her. “That is not enough. You can’t live on that. I sometimes have to pay with a credit card at the supermarket because all I make is gone after paying rent and utilities. My cards are often maxed out,” she said.

“What is right, fair and true is that everyone deserves a fair pay for an honest day of work. Everyone deserves dignity and respect at their job, and that starts with getting paid a wage that allows you and your family to live,” said Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO.

The Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered the most recent raise to $10.10 per hour in 2014 to be implemented the following year. However, workers are seeking more improvements as well as more benefits. “We worked 40 hours but, ever since the government forced them to pay us more, they have cut hours,” said Norman Echeverri, a Colombian who works for Prime Flight Aviation Services. “It is a trick of the companies to avoid losing money. We want a contract and benefits. We won’t be okay until we have that.”

According to the union, Gov. Andrew Cuomo already supports these measures. However, they are expecting resistance from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office.

“We know that the main problem comes from New Jersey, where they say they want to study this further to see what kind of impact it might have,” said Figueroa. “However, there are airports that have been raising their salaries higher than New York and New Jersey. Miami is already at $15, Fort Lauderdale at $13, Philadelphia is paying $12. Raising wages in New York or Newark will not put airlines at a disadvantage.”

Aside from union leaders, a number of Council members showed up at the march to support the workers. “Too many times we have met here at Ditmars Boulevard to demand what is fair, and that is what it means to help our families put food on the table and pay our rents without having to think twice,” said Julissa Ferreras, councilwoman for the district where LaGuardia Airport is located. “The time is now. We are tired of this situation.”

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. marched in Washington and asked for a minimum wage of $2 an hour. According to the 32BJ union leaders, that number is equivalent to $15.51 considering inflation, an amount similar to what the workers are requesting.

Similar protests were held at other airports around the country, from Miami to Portland.

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