Labor Organizer Raymin Diaz on Building a Black-Brown Coalition

Raymin Diaz in front of construction site at 14th and Belmont St, NW


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“The African American in the community looks at the Hispanic as a threat. ‘They’re taking the jobs.’ That’s been the claim,” said Raymin Diaz, a labor organizer with LiUNA, as he overlooked Southland’s construction site at 14th and Belmont St, NW last month.

“But look at who owns Southland, who owns Clark, who owns these companies. It’s not the Hispanic. The contractor is the one who does the hiring. The contractor is the one who underpays [and] undercuts these workers, and overlooks African Americans. As long as we’re down here at the bottom of the hill duking it out for the jobs, the contractors are laughing with that check to the bank.”

Before becoming a union organizer, Diaz was a construction laborer specializing in demolition. “I know about the 16-hour, 20-hour day under the sun. It’s tough. Really tough.”

In a recent article, entitled, “Protecting Latino Workers on the Job,” Diaz writes, “I am a union organizer, a job that is not for the faint of heart: my day starts early in the morning, before 5 a.m., while thousands of workers you never see are up and getting ready to work construction to build our city, roads, and bridges. I gather dozens of stories of workers who witness firsthand the callous hearts of those employers who are all too eager to benefit from a system that allows for the exploitation of workers due to their immigration status.”

Diaz continues, “While most demographic groups have seen a decline in workplace fatalities, the number of Latino Americans who died at work has increased significantly. Between 1992 and 2007, the Bureau of Labor reports work-related fatalities in the U.S. dropped nine percent. However, the number of Latino Americans who died at work increased by 76 percent during that period… Although [Latinos] make up one quarter of the construction industry’s workforce, they suffer almost half of its fatalities.”

Diaz said, “Down the road what I see is needing to build power among working people. Period. This ain’t just Hispanic workers. It’s about black workers, Hispanic workers, building a black and brown coalition.”

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