About a month ago, Workers Defense Project led a march through downtown Austin for what they call the Day Of The Fallen. This action draws attention to poor labor protections for all Texas workers, but particularly to the plight of Texan construction workers, for whom this state is the deadliest in the nation. The Worker’s Defense Project, also known as the Proyecto Defensa Laboral, supports labor on multiple fronts — in addition to direct action and lobbying, they hold weekly meetings where anyone can get free legal advice on a conflict with their employer.
I’ve been owed money by a contractor since December of 2011 in what has turned into a civil lawsuit, and I’ve gone several times to Workers Defense Project meetings. In addition to helping navigate the slow and confusing legal system they also gave me a fascinating though incomplete insight into what it’s like to need help in a place where you don’t speak the native language. You see, I’m one of those Typical White Americans who only picked up a smattering of foreign words in school and is otherwise shamefully monolingual. Workers Defense Project meetings are held entirely in Spanish, which means I needed a translator except for the period where I met one on one with an advisor.
At the beginning of each meeting, the whole group shares their new achievements and gathers in a rousing shout which you can hear in the above video:
¿Qué queremos? (What do we want?)
¿Cuándo queremos? (When do we want it?)
At one meeting I attended they announced they’d recovered over $800,000 in worker wages just in 2011. Here’s hoping they can include mine in their total in 2013 — and that they keep up this important work for many years to come.
Tonight’s video is by Jeff Zavala and the Zgraphix.org team, working for Austin Indymedia Center.
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