Casa Latina Field Trip


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Last week I took a trip to the Casa Latina Day Worker’s Center on 17th Ave S. Over 700 new immigrants enroll in Casa Latina programs each year helping them to build key skills that they need to live in Seattle.

The Executive Director of Casa Latina, Hilary Stern, welcomed us at 6:45 am. She led us in through the facility to the back where workers were dropping their ID cards into a large empty water bottle, then we  walked back to another building where the workers were seated, listening to morning announcements in Spanish. Casa Latina has devised a system of equitably distributing job opportunities by working with group leaders and raffling off jobs by pulling ID cards out of the water bottle. In addition, there are volunteer jobs onsite that were raffled off, and if someone took one of those jobs (i.e. serving breakfast to the workers), the next day he/she would automatically get a paying job offsite.

After the job raffle, the workers got breakfast. Some, who didn’t get jobs, went into the center to take English classes or workshops on topics such as job safety, leadership training, and advocacy.

You can call the Center and get one of the workers, but you need to be sure you are providing a safe work environment and proper equipment. Another organization that provides similar services is The Millionaire’s Club. Councilmember Conlin blogged about the two organizations back in 2004 and noted that the Millionaire’s Club requires documentation of legal status. Finally, Laborers Union, Local 242 works closely with CASA Latina. The union requires acceptance into a state-approved four-year apprenticeship program for individuals who desire membership, and expanded the program to include Spanish-speaking instructors in 2009.  

Other cities have similar nonprofits committed to improving the lives of immigrant families. Los Angeles, for example, has the Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) with a vibrant carwash campaign. Denver has El Centro Humanitario, a Center for day laborers that combines the job-finding function of a day center with education and leadership development. Much like El Centro, the goal is to develop a sense of community and self-sufficiency among workers.

After the tour, I sat down and chatted with some of the inspiring workers at Casa Latina. I learned about research on community engagement and exciting work to help others have a voice in Seattle.

 Seattle is a pretty progressive city and I’m proud to see organizations like Casa Latina working to help immigrants. In these economic times, it is important to help everyone we can by giving them the tools they need to make a living and participate in the community.

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