Organizing & Leadership
Leadership Development as a Central Emphasis in All BWC Programs
All BWC programs further active civic engagement by our community. Our workers’ rights and domestic workers’ organizing efforts, and our active involvement in immigrant rights campaigns, are aimed centrally at increasing the number of community activists and leaders engaged with BWC and with broader movements for social change at local, state and national levels. Many of our constituents cannot vote as US citizens, but can play important roles in the political debate around immigration issues, for example, by demonstrating, attending rallies, political education, educating their voting family members and neighbors about the issues, or giving public testimony. Our organizing and training support workers in gaining the knowledge for analyzing their own situation, for learning legal and political options available to them, for joining with others in struggle, for developing their own voice, and for taking action to solve their problems. We welcome and support all who can take on leadership roles at the BWC.
We do everything we can at every stage to back them up, at the BWC offices, in community settings, in public actions, and in the media, such as on call-in radio shows.
Participation in BWC activities and governance usually starts with one or several workers coming with a problem. That is the first step toward leadership. We engage them in their drive to affect their own situation, and to claim their own voice, by offering information and advice, and material and technical support. A visit to BWC is often followed by further workshops, community meetings, ESOL or OSHA safety training classes, and by taking increased leadership in the workplace or wider community. BWC requires workers who bring labor law violation cases to us for advice, advocacy, and intervention, to go through a workers’ rights workshop. They often also bring their wage theft claims to our new workers’ council, and while solving it, join the council themselves. Those on the council also undergo a six-month leadership training course, that includes public speaking, organizing and running a meeting, and other matters. In the council and in our workshops, we stress how important it is for everyone with knowledge of workers’ rights to educate others in their workplaces and communities, and to realize that knowledge increases their civic responsibility to the community. Workers, in fact, often volunteer at BWC to help other workers.
We at BWC are workers ourselves. Most board and staff either currently work, or have worked in the past, in job sectors that employ our constituents: construction, domestic service, restaurant work, and gardening. Two of our board are domestic workers, and four are construction workers. Almost all board and staff are 1st generation Brazilian immigrants themselves, and people of color. We know in our skin what the pressures are that immigrant workers face today. It is not hard for us to empathize with the members of the community we work with, because we are part of it. We also recognize that we ourselves – like them - need ongoing training, and to learn more. Leadership development is a central part of all our work, for staff, board, volunteers, as well as constituents. We are committed to promoting group-centered leadership that empowers as many people as possible.
The Building Justice Intensive Leadership Development Program. Our most focused and intense leadership development effort takes place in our Construíndo Justiça (Building Justice) Workers’ Committee. For members of Building Justice, the leadership training program takes a total of 30 hours, six five-hour sessions held on Saturdays. The sequence includes sessions on: 1) Basic workers’ rights: what they are, and why there are so many problems with seeing them observed; how this is linked to the disadvantages that being an immigrant of color, often undocumented, brings to workers within the US racial and class order; 2) Basic leadership skills: how to facilitate meetings, create agendas, public speaking, and talking to the media; 3) Event and meeting planning and organizing – what is involved; 4) The basics of civic and political engagement; what the individual and the group can do to advocate for policy change, and to move a bill; 5) Mediation and small claims court as means of resolving wage theft cases; 6) How to understand budgets and decision-making about money; 7) Group decision making and accountability: how do you make decisions that are principled and transparent; 8) Issues in subcontracting and employer misclassification of workers; 9) How to use mechanic’s liens as a legal tool to force employer legal compliance.