Sunday, October 07, 2007

Day laborers celebrate repeal of law. Today is a victorious day for all the workers here in Baldwin Park and all the workers in the United States.

BALDWIN PARK - Day labors vowed Thursday to continue to fight for their rights, a day after the city repealed a ban on soliciting in parking lots and sidewalks.

At a morning news conference, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund announced it will be filing court papers next month to dismiss litigation against the city.

The Latino advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the city in June, challenging the constitutionality of the ban. The ordinance prohibited soliciting in parking lots and on sidewalks without a 3-foot buffer for pedestrians.

A July court ruling temporarily halted the ban's implementation, and Wednesday night, the City Council unanimously repealed the law.

"Today is a victorious day for all the workers here in Baldwin Park and all the workers in the United States," MALDEF attorney Kristina Campbell said in English and Spanish.

She spoke in front of nearly 100 laborers, who were in their work clothes and chanting slogans and holding signs.

They shouted "S se pudo" or "Yes, it was done." Their signs read, "Reward hard work, don't criminalize it."

The workers also played music and sang traditional songs from Mexico of the "Son Jarocho" style - a type of music that symbolizes resistance, said Marco Amador, educational and outreach coordinator for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network.

"It's hard for us to be here because we need to work," said 52-year-old Rafael Olivares through an interpreter. "We're here, not out there looking for work. This is less of an opportunity for us to provide for our family, but we know how important it is for us to be here today."

Representatives of several Latino advocacy groups, including the National Day Laborers Organizing Network and Latino Roundtable, Pro Inmigrant Members also attended the news conference.

While workers' advocates and day laborers said they were happy with Wednesday's council decision, they also said they were concerned about Mayor Manuel Lozano's comments that he would support a similar law in the future.

"If they do start the creation of a new ordinance, we will be right there (to fight it)," Amador said.

Other day laborers echoed the sentiment.

"We are prepared to continue in the fight of the good of this whole community," said 40-year-old Jose Luis Centes, who also spoke through an interpreter.

He is a representative of the Jornaleros Unidos de Baldwin Park, a laborers group.

"We know this city government is close-minded," said Centes, who is from El Salvador. "They're only protecting certain interests in the community."

Pacheco said he would "absolutely not support" another ban.

Lozano said he stood by his comments that if the city can build a day laborer center, he would consider an accompanying ordinance to make sure laborers would congregate at that site and not in the public's right of way.

"If we are going to have this center we need to have some kind of established uniformity to make it work," he said.

Lozano and Councilwoman Marlen Garcia are heading up a council-approved committee to look at a potential site in Baldwin Park.

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