Chicago Tribune
March 25, 2004

Push on for day-laborer center

Group won't wait for city's support
By Nikki Usher
Tribune staff reporter

Day laborers and immigrant-rights activists met Wednesday to announce a revamped, grass-roots approach to raise support for a controversial workers' center.

As part of the new strategy, members of the Latino Union of Chicago said they no longer would rely solely on money from the city to help build a workers' center for day laborers in Albany Park.

"We're growing frustrated with the city and had looked to the city to give us a space. We're now going to ask trade unions and interfaith groups for help, as has been done in L.A. and New York," Latino Union director Jessica Aranda said.

Day laborers and activists have demanded that the city help pay for such a center for the last 3 1/2 years. They now have a petition with more than 200 signatures from registered voters in the area supporting the center.

But some Albany Park residents have been opposed to the gathering of day laborers on North Pulaski Road. In October they formed an organization, Neighbors United, to address the issue.

Still, supporters of the center also hope that a meeting Friday with Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) will move the project forward.

"She's never even taken the time to meet with us before," said Eric Rodriguez, a member of the Latino Union. Laurino could not be reached for comment.

Currently day laborers, many of them undocumented immigrants, wait along a stretch of North Pulaski for employers to pick them up. The situation makes it easier for employers to take advantage of the workers because they have no way to complain about unfair treatment, activists said.

"A workers center would be good for us and for contractors and allow us to avoid bad experiences," said Arturo Nieto, a day laborer.

Leaders of the Latino Union of Chicago also said they would increase their efforts to educate Chicago residents about the needs of undocumented immigrants.

They will begin door-to-door outreach campaigns in the Albany Park neighborhood so residents can talk about the issues facing undocumented immigrants, Rodriguez said.

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