Organization Fights for Staten Island Workers

La Colmena (Photo by Marco Meza via Diario de México)

La Colmena (Photo by Marco Meza via Diario de México)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, in 2014, the number of Mexicans living in New York City increased to 281,935. Of these, 15,000 reside on Staten Island. While the borough has become a viable place to live and work, this does not spare immigrant workers from exploitation, discrimination and other social problems.

Faced by this terrible reality, the community organization La Colmena, led by Gonzalo Mercado, works to help the Hispanic community.

“La Colmena seeks to look after the rights of the workers who need it most,” said Mercado.

The organization’s community job center is a place where day laborers can get training to further develop skills, participate in health workshops and obtain safety certifications, and also have access to support services,” added the organizer. The center also offers information on where to find employment.

At the moment, La Colmena has 250 members, men and women. Of them, 30 percent are Mexican.

Mercado said that the organization concentrates on three specific tasks. First, they fight for workers’ rights, which entails demanding fair wages, looking after the safety of the laborers and offering legal assistance in cases of work accidents. Second, La Colmena provides members with counseling in cases of wage theft, as well as in the creation of workers’ cooperatives.

The last main focus of the group is empowering youths by helping them obtain or renew their DACA status, assisting them with their college applications and guiding them in their job search.

La Colmena’s activities are not just local. The organization also has a program to help students from the University of Puebla come to New York City to take courses.

“We also have the Ñani Migrante Transnational Project [“ñani” means “sibling” in Mixtec languages], a two-year-old program whose key objective is to unify the family to preserve our language and culture,” said Mercado.

Click here for more information about La Colmena.

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