three main program areas are described in more detail below:
Support to Workers.
Andolan provides on-going support to its members. In each meeting,
workers share their problems and strategize together on possible
solutions. These issues often deal with immigration status,
health problems, low wages, other problems with employers or working
conditions, domestic disputes, and learning English. Though
meetings are held once every two months, Andolan provides a network
and constant social support. This includes accompanying workers
to the hospital, counseling over the phone or in person, providing
referrals to shelters, and translation. Andolan often receives
calls from women experiencing domestic violence. Although there
are other organizations that specifically address this issue, they
often don’t have staff members that speak South Asian languages. Andolan
works with these women to provide counseling, referrals and support. Andolan
also holds various workshops that are open to members and non-members
alike on topics such as self-defense, legal clinics and workshops
on changes to immigration laws, and health clinics.
Lawsuits against abusive employers.
Over the past three years, Andolan has worked with several individuals
who have been severely abused, threatened and exploited by their
employers. Andolan provides support to members pursuing legal
action through various manners that include legal referrals, lawyer
meeting attendance, and accompaniment to court. Andolan has brought
several cases against employers and has had a high success rate.
On-going cases include a worker who was physically abused by a UN
diplomat employer, a worker who was not paid her wages for several
weeks, a worker who was injured on the job and not permitted to
seek proper medical treatment, and three women who work for the
same employer and are not being fairly remunerated.
Campaigns for Workers’ Rights.
most recent initiative is the Retail Workers Campaign. In this campaign,
we conduct surveys in order to understand better the employment
position of these workers. Andolan members go directly to the places
of employment and carry out these surveys with the retail workers.
These surveys ask questions regarding the job duties, salary, and
general employment of these workers. Upon completing these surveys,
Andolan plans to organize a press conference, where the general
public will have an opportunity to learn about the plight of these
low-wage workers. We also invite the workers who participate in
our surveys to forums of interest at Andolan, and then consequently
hope that they become members. In addition, we distribute flyers
and brochures to these workers that describe their employment rights
under federal and New York state law, employer guidelines, and steps
they can take if they are in an abusive work environment. We further
provide these workers with Andolan’s contact information,
should they ever need support or assistance. We train members and
a program associate to do this outreach.
recently launched the Campaign against Diplomatic Immunity of UN
Employers to demand that diplomatic immunity not be used to shield
abusive employers from accountability for their treatment of domestic
workers. Andolan is currently the only organization to be working
on such a campaign. Campaign activities include protests outside
the homes and offices of abusive employers, community education
sessions on the issue, and legal support for individual victims. In
the past, we have organized a large demonstration with five workers
who have been exploited by UN employers; one was paid only $20 per
month, two had their passports confiscated, and all have not received
the wages agreed to in their contracts. Andolan has already filed
lawsuits on behalf of two of these workers (see Daily News article),
and the other three, who share the same employer, are beginning
to file a lawsuit. We organized a demonstration to bring public
attention to the Campaign and the need for accountability.
co-coordinates the Campaign to Increase the Minimum Wage with the
Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), an organization working
with the larger Asian community. Through dialogue with local and
state officials, advocacy efforts and public demonstrations, Andolan
is trying to spur greater action on minimum wage laws. Andolan and
CAAAV advocate the institution of a living wage of $11 per hour.
campaign is the Campaign to Create Identity Cards, an initiative
to support undocumented workers who have voiced their desire for
some form of identification to carry with them to identify themselves.
Having an identity card will help provide a sense of security and
legitimacy, as well as facilitate routine transactions in everyday
life. Particularly after September 11, undocumented immigrants have
faced difficulty in accessing public services, such as hospitals
that are supposed to be open to all regardless of immigration status.
New policies implemented after September 11th that requires individuals
to show identification have the de facto effect of limiting access
for many workers.
intended outcomes for these campaigns are:
- For workers
in the South Asian immigrant community to empower themselves through
obtaining information about their rights;
- To organize
workers through collective action to understand that they are
not isolated in their experiences;
- To advocate
for concrete policy changes that address workers’ rights;
- To outreach
to new workers and provide information, support and resources.
more specifically in the “Member Stories” link, many
of the legal actions pursued by our members have successfully resulted
in payment of back pay and damages.
as part of these campaigns, we urged New York City Council members
to enact legislation guaranteeing fair labor contracts to domestic
workers. In fact, one of our biggest victories in 2003 has been
the passage of our Bill in City Hall demanding a standard contract
for domestic workers. Andolan was one of the founding members
of the Domestic Workers United Coalition that organized the campaign. The
Bill passed in early June, and was the result of advocacy and organizing
efforts aimed at legislators including a large demonstration in
October of 2002 where hundreds of domestic workers marched on City
Hall. The Bill requires that employers and agencies provide domestic
workers with a standard contract that guarantees minimum wage laws,
health insurance, regular working hours, overtime pay, and enforces
other basic labor standards. There is still work to be done to ensure
that this bill is implemented and enforced such as campaigning for
strong monitoring and recourse in cases of violation of the laws
set forth. Most of the enforcement measures in the bill are
for agencies that place domestic workers. Given that most of Andolan’s
members find work through informal community mechanisms, we are
currently developing ways to make this important legislation meaningful
to the realities of the community in which we work.