NWJP’s mission has always included supporting and defending immigrant workers. Recent national and local events have made this work even more important. NWJP currently represent a number of workers whose coworkers, emboldened by the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric, have targeted them.
In Portland, two of our clients, from Mexico and Guatemala, were crew leads for a moving company when a new worker started making racist remarks about Latinos, including that he hoped that Trump would become president and remove all of the Hispanics from the country, and tried to pick a fight with some of the Latino workers. Our clients complained to the supervisors because they felt like they had to protect themselves and other Latino workers from abuse by this worker. Both crew leads were fired.
A Latino worker at a major national retailor in Hood River was confronted by a white coworker who threatened him with a knife while calling him racist slurs. After he asked for protection from his supervisors, he was fired.
And, another Latino worker in the Eugene area endured a year and a half of racist remarks and escalating, destructive pranks focused on the few Latino workers. He reported the conduct to his supervisors, but nothing changed. Things came to a head when a coworker hit our client in the back with a pole. While he was out on leave for his injured back, he was fired.
We know that these cases are just a small sampling of the racial discrimination that immigrant workers face in Oregon and across the country. But Oregon leads the nation in reported incidents of race-based harassment since the election. Our work, therefore, includes not only representing individual workers, but also pressing for legislation that will better protect workers. In 2017, we will push for a bill in Oregon that gives workers who are fired for retaliation, like the workers mentioned above, additional tools to more easily prove that their protected complaints were the reasons for their firing. And, we are working with other community groups to strengthen our networks to confront new threats that immigrant workers might face in the coming year.