Lobbying in Austin

With allies Border Network for Human Rights and Workers Defense Project, we’ve had a busy month!

On February 22, Committee members Aurelio Rangel, Miguel Gamboa, and Gerardo Hernandez went to Austin with BNHR to protest and lobby with Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA), a statewide organization dedicated to building support for comprehensive immigration reform.

During the event, over 3,000 people marched the Austin streets from Waterloo Park to the State Capitol building, where a rally was held to protest the 60-plus anti-immigrant proposals that are currently before the Texas legislature.  After the rally, many participants met with their legislators to let them personally know how they felt about these horrendous proposals.    Aurelio, along with other El Pasoans,  met with State Representative Dee Margo (R-El Paso) to discuss the legislation.

As Aurelio said “I was excited for the opportunity to talk to lawmakers because we need to let them know how we feel about issues that affect and interest us, and how proposed legislation will affect our community, whether for better or for worse.  We came here because we care about the Latino community.  Legislation that has to do with the economy, that has to do with education – all of it affects us.  We have to fight for what’s right by talking to our legislators BEFORE they pass laws that hurt our society.”

As if that wasn’t enough, the next week Committee members Aurelio Rangel, Abelardo Lopez, and Gerardo Hernandez, along with Paso del Norte Economic Justice Attorney Chris Benoit went back to Austin to participate in the Day of the Fallen, a day of action organized by Workers Defense Project commemorating the 138 construction workers who have died on the job here in Texas and pushing for legislation to protect construction workers.

Did you know that every 2.5 days a construction worker dies in Texas, which is higher than in any other state? That Texas is the only state that allows employers to opt out of workers compensation? That employers are not obligated to give workers rest breaks during the day?

After the rally, the group (along with other rally participants) met with State Representative Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), along with staff from State Senator Jose Rodriguez’ office and Marisa Marquez’ office.

Committee member Abelardo Lopez, preparing for the lobbying visit

Committee members Aurelio Rangel, Abelardo Lopez, Gerardo Hernandez, and Paso del Norte attorney Chris Benoit, with Jesse Renteria from the Laborers' International Union

Austin ABC station KVUE interviewed Chris and Abel after the rally:

Texas Construction Workers March for Better Wages, Safe Working Conditions

by KVUE News
Posted on March 2, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Hundreds of constructions workers and their supporters marched to the State Capitol Wednesday demanding better wages and safer working conditions.

The protesters carried 138 coffins to pay tribute to those who died on the job in the last two years in Texas.

The Workers Defense Project says Texas is the most dangerous and unhealthy state to work in for construction workers. The group is calling on legislators to take action and make positive changes.

“We are actually demanding better treatment for construction people, construction workers,” construction worker Abel Lopez said. “We’re looking for safety and workers compensation.”

“Every two and a half days a worker dies on the job in this state, and one in five workers is injured in the job every year without worker’s comp,” civil rights attorney Chris Benoit said.  ” We are the only state in the union that doesn’t have mandatory workers comp for workers on the job.”

There are several proposed bills before legislators this session. One would require construction employers to carry workers compensation, others look at the lack of rest breaks, safety trainings, and tax fraud.

For more news articles about both rallies, including pictures and videos, see below:
http://www.workersdefense.org/report-back-from-the-day-of-the-fallen/

http://galleries.statesman.com/gallery/day-fallen-030211/#158059

http://issues.laprensasa.com/downloadable-issues/2011/laprensa/pdf/030611A.pdf

http://riograndeguardian.com/rggnews_story.asp?story_no=14

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20110222-north-texans-among-thousands-in-austin-to-protest-immigration-bills.ece

http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/in-austin-crowds-rally-against-immigration-proposals-1274044.html

http://www.texastribune.org/texas-legislature/82nd-legislative-session/texans-protest-proposed-immigration-bills/

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