The Hardman Avenue Workers Center, located at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189 hall in South St. Paul, opened with a celebration and free citizenship workshops for immigrant workers.
The goal of the initiative, Local 1189 Organizing Director Abraham Wangnoo said, is to “start teaching people what their rights are,” particularly people working in the state’s poultry and packinghouse industries, where employers are “constantly finding new immigrant worker groups to exploit.”
Far too often for people in the U.S. on temporary work visas, Wangnoo added, the only source of information about their rights on the job is their boss.
“If we don’t educate them, if we don’t bring them in and try to help them understand their rights and what working union means, then we won’t be able to organize – and the quality of these jobs will be forever poor,” he said.
While poultry and packinghouse workers are a focus of the Hardman Avenue Workers Center, its services – including pre-screening of immigration applications and documents, legal assistance and citizenship test flashcards – are available to workers in any industry.
“This is only the beginning,” Local 1189 President Jennifer Christensen said at the grand opening of the center on June 8. “We have great things to come for the worker center. We have great hope for helping our immigrant community obtain citizenship, stopping wage theft, helping poultry workers get justice throughout Minnesota and helping retail workers rise to the wages they deserve.”