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Posts Tagged ‘laborer’

Photograph: Ginnette Riquelme for The New York Times
Artist Amor Muñoz pays workers at her mobile factory about $7.50 an hour. “I’m interested in sharing the experience of art,” Ms. Muñoz says.

An artist in Mexico City hires people off the street at $7.50 an hour to help create “electronic textiles.”

Amor Muñoz uses a megaphone to shout, “One hundred pesos an hour!”

Damien Cave at the NY Times continues the story. “The rush was on. By the time Ms. Muñoz parked in her usual spot outside a hospital in one of Mexico City’s peripheral neighborhoods, a line had already formed. Women of all ages squeezed together — one held a baby, another was nearly too old to walk — as Ms. Muñoz opened up a white wooden box revealing thread, needles, cloth, timecards and employment contracts. The work involved creating interactive art pieces that combine the old craft of sewing with 20th-century electronics and 21st-century tags allowing smartphone users to look up who worked on a given piece. …

“Her maquiladora, or factory, she said, is a ‘fantasy’ meant to condemn the harsh reality of a global economy that uses and discards poor workers, especially women, to keep prices low. …

“She described Mexican wages as an insult to human dignity, and every time her mobile factory appears, the power of work for reasonable pay goes on display. The crowds that gather are typically large. Sometimes people push and shove for two hours of work and $15, though once the day’s employees are selected (first come first hired), a calm tends to follow. …

“Many of the women seemed to appreciate a chance to be involved in an art project. María González, 75, smiled widely when handed a needle and adjusted her purple scarf, excited to be creating something rather than worrying about her husband in the hospital. ‘This,’ she said, sewing without looking down, ‘is a wonderful distraction.’ ”

Read more about how happy the women are to work at that wage on art, even if it’s only for two hours.

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I liked a Nov. 19 editorial in the NY Times: “Day Laborers, Helping Hands.” It shows that attitudes about immigration can be affected by circumstances.

“About 50 or so people gathered outside a storm-ruined taco restaurant on Saturday morning in Coney Island, on a backstreet behind the Boardwalk near the Wonder Wheel. They were day laborers, Hispanic men and women who have been spending weekends as a volunteer brigade, helping other people chip away at the mountains of debris and accepting nothing in return except work gloves, face masks and safety information cards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They came from all over the region, including a day labor hiring center in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, that Hurricane Sandy had washed away.

“It’s not unusual to find day laborers looking for work after a disaster. What was striking was the warmth and gratitude they found. They even had an official welcome, from the local state assemblyman, Alec Brook-Krasny, and two City Council members — Domenic Recchia Jr. of Coney Island and Vincent Gentile of Bensonhurst.

“They thanked everyone for coming and pledged to get the Bensonhurst work center open again. A man from the laborers’ union gave a safety lecture. …  ‘We are all New Yorkers,’ said Mr. Recchia, who had brought a box of masks. An observer used to the anti-Latino screeds of politicians on Long Island, a few miles east, marveled at the sense of community — the feeling that after a disaster, immigration status didn’t matter, only a willingness to help.”

Although I took this photo in downtown Boston, the union mural seemed fitting, suggesting the importance of keeping fairness in mind after the crisis has passed.

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