February 2018 Damayan Dispatch - Damayan's Monthly Newsletter

DAMAYAN MIGRANTS | March 06, 2018

The Damayan Dispatch is Damayan's monthly newsletter. To sign up for the e-newsletter, go to the bottom of the main page of www.damayanmigrants.org. To pick up a hard copy of the Dispatch, come to the Damayan office or a Damayan event. If you would like to recieve a copy of the Dispatch in the mail, please call (212) 564-6057. 


Damayan Stands with Working Class Women on March 8 International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day of international solidarity in the struggle of working-class women, and a celebration of the fiercely powerful women who make up the movement. This year, Damayan is celebrating its 16th year of being on the forefront of the women-lead movement for economic, labor and social justice for all. When the group of domestic workers gathered in 2001 to start Damayan Migrant Workers Association, they recognized the vital necessity of having the voices of working-class women lead the domestic worker's rights movement. The foundation for Damayan’s development included providing not only critical services but also grassroots organizing of workers to build and develop social justice leaders.

Focusing on a workforce of housekeepers, nannies, cooks, etc. that is overwhelming Filipino and female, Damayan works to inform workers of their rights and build community. Domestic work can be highly stressful, isolating and toxic, and is exempt from many of the job standards of the Department of Labor. It is setting up a collective center for their social, political, physical and psychological well-being and organizing.

Damayan brings workers together to share common concerns, acquire the skill and ability to advocate for their own rights and welfare, and learn about the social, economic and political roots of forced migration and poverty. Through Damayan women, like, Edith Mendoza and Sherile Pahagas, who experienced exploitation by their former employer, German Diplomat Pitt Koehler, have been able to speak out and fight for justice.

On March 8th, Damayan will be joining the Women’s Day Strike and take to the streets to celebrate and honor our Filipino sisters fighting for their rights and dignity. Damayan celebrates the achievements gained through struggle, and we remain unwaveringly committed to continuing to organize, educate and mobilize for the full and absolute liberation for all.


Detained 7-Eleven Filipino Worker Larry Villena Released on Bond

After one month of being detained, 7-Eleven Filipino worker and single father of three Larry Villena was released on bond and was reunited with his cheering family and supporters yesterday. Mr. Villena, his family, and supporters were overjoyed with his release and would continue to fight for his right to stay in this country.

Mr. Villena is one of the four Filipino workers at 7-Eleven stores who was arrested last January, following the nationwide raids of the store chain that resulted in the arrest of a total of 21 workers. He was detained while the other three were detained and released on the same day.

“This is a small but important victory,” said Damayan Migrant Workers Association Lead Organizer Riya Ortiz. “This victory is a result of the courage of Mr. Villena and his family, and is a testament to the power of organizing and solidarity work.”

Mr. Villena came to the United States about ten years ago due to poverty and unemployment in the Philippines, and he sacrificed to be away from his children to provide them a better life. He worked in 7-Eleven in Little Neck, NY, for about ten years until he was arrested in January. Despite his meager pay, he solely supported his children’s needs and schooling while raising them from afar. He also helped her sisters who had financial problems back home. Damayan has been supporting Mr. Villena and the other three workers two days since the raids happened. Damayan referred them to immigration attorneys from the Community Development Program at the Urban Justice Center (CDP-UJC). CDP Staff Attorney Sean McMahon represented Mr. Villena in the hearing yesterday.

Damayan also gathered letters of support for Mr. Villena and helped pack the courtroom with representatives from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), T’ruah: Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Philippine Consulate. The immigration court judge even noted the community’s strong presence during the hearing.


Damayan Bade Farewell to New York Consulate General Tess De Vega

Damayan leaders and members joined the Filipino community in the Northeast in bidding farewell to Philippine Consulate General in New York Tess De Vega on February 28th. She will be leaving her position because she was given a promotion in the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

ConGen Tess De Vega was instrumental in the signing of the landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Damayan and the Philippine Consulate to combat the labor trafficking and modern-day slavery of Filipino nationals in New York.

The MOU, which Damayan has advocated for since 2013, paved the way for the creation of the Anti-Trafficking Working Group (ATWG) composed of representatives from Damayan and the Consulate. The ATWG will serve as a structure for joint planning, deliverables, and guidelines to implement the agreements and commitments of both the Consulate and Damayan.

We wish the best for ConGen Tess De Vega, and we hope she’ll continue to serve our kababayans abroad. We in Damayan will continue fighting for Filipino migrant workers in New York and New Jersey and look forward to working with the Consulate in the ATWG and for the rights and protection of our kababayans.


Damayan Welcomes Edith Mendoza as New Worker Organizer

Damayan is excited to announce that Edith Mendoza has been hired as Damayan’s new Worker Organizer! As a trafficking survivor and a member of our Justice for Edith and Sherile Campaign, Edith knows first-hand the exploitation and abuse migrant workers often face. Edith came to Damayan in 2016, after receiving a flyer from a friend. As a member, Damayan connected Edith with a lawyer from the Urban Justice Center and, in 2017, Damayan launched the Justice for Edith and Sherile Campaign.

Edith, along with Sherile Pahagas, sued their former German diplomat employers Pit and Mareike Koehlers for stolen wages. On November 9, Edith’s and Sherile’s case against the Koehlers was dismissed due to diplomatic immunity. Despite this grave injustice, Edith won her trafficking visa giving her the ability to bring her family to the U.S. Additionally, Edith was elected to the Board of Directors of the Damayan Workers Cooperative in 2017.

As Worker Organizer, Edith has already been very busy as the Damayan Workers Cooperative organizer and leading the planning and implementation of OSHA and Nanny Training. Edith is currently organizing the Bronx Community College Nanny Certificate Program which has 25 participants. Edith is an incredible organizer, and Damayan is delighted to have her!

February Legal Clinics Served 15 Mostly New Workers

About 15 low-wage Filipino workers, mostly new workers, received critical legal services and free health screening through Damayan’s legal and health clinics last month.

Atty. Danielle Alvarado and Atty. Sean McMahon from the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center screened workers with possible trafficking cases, domestic violence, adjustment of status, and general immigration questions. Atty. Thomas Lamadrid from Eisner and Dictor screened workers for possible stolen wage cases. On the Sunday legal clinic, Dr. Victor Sta. Ana from the Institute of Family Health did free health screening and doctor’s consultation with about 10 workers and staff members. 

Damayan organizers Lydia Catina-Amaya and Edith Mendoza also gave a Damayan orientation and discussed the case management model, agreement, and what to expect with their cases. Ten new workers signed up to become members. The legal clinics also served as a welcoming space for Filipinos who wanted to build community with other workers. They shared stories and food, and some cooked or bought food to share. 

Legal clinics are held on the fourth Sundays and Mondays of the month. The next clinics will be on Sunday and Monday, March 25 and 26. To register, please contact Lydia at 212.564.6057 or lydia@damayanmigrants.org. 


Report: Worker Organizer and Case Manager Lydia Catina-Amaya

Lydia helps manages the cases and leads in organizing the monthly legal clinics.

February has been a very busy month! We kickstarted outreach again by visiting restaurants, supermarkets, and salons in Woodside, Queens, to spread the news about Damayan’s free legal clinics. In addition, we also spoke directly with workers about their immigration and labor rights.

Last late February, workers came for immigration and labor consultations with pro bono attorneys. They also received Damayan orientation and did worker storytelling, and had delicious food.


Damayan to Recieve O&G Public Service Award

We are delighted to announce that Damayan will be receiving the O&G Public Service Award from Outten and Golden, at the law firm’s 9th Annual O&G Public Service Award event on March 6th. Outten and Golden is a highly esteemed firm “dedicated to representing employees and other individuals (including executives, partners, professionals, and talent), not employers, in all industries, across all professions, and at all employment levels.” Every year since 2010, O&G has honored “exceptional nonprofits” and this year O&G will honor Damayan “for their work fighting for the civil rights of vulnerable groups.”

The March 6th event will also mark the launch of Damayan’s #Stong16 campaign. This campaign celebrates Damayan’s 16th anniversary with a goal of raising $16k by the end of June. The #Strong16 campaign honors the workers, members, leaders, and allies, including Outten and Golden, that have made Damayan’s achievements over the past 16 years possible. As a grassroots organization, Damayan relies on the support of donors and sustainers to continue its vital work organizing Filipino migrant workers. If you are interested in donating or becoming a sustainer for Damayan’s #Strong16 campaign, please go to: 



Member Spotlight

The Damayan Dispatch Member Spotlight is a new monthly feature that highlights Damayan's members.

Name: Juana Dwyer

From: Naval Biliran, Leyte

Member of Damayan Since: 2008, Former Chair, Board of Directors

How did you find out about Damayan? A friend, who was a Damayan member, gave me a Damayan flyer. I was curious because I did not know of any other other organization for Filipino workers, so I attended a meeting, where I then signed up to be a member.

By the end of 2008, my boss fired me for no reason. Damayan connected me with a lawyer, and together, we filed a case against my employer, suing for stolen wages and overtime… and I won! Damayan helped me find justice.

What is your favorite part about being a Damayan member? Damayan gives you a fighting spirit!



Upcoming Events

Thursday, 3/8, 4pm  - International Women's Strike, New York City

Sunday, 3/18, 7pm  - Damayan Facebook Live with Domestic Worker Labor Trafficking Survivors

Sunday & Monday, 3/25 & 26, 11am-4pm - OSHA / Know Your Rights Training/ Legal Clinic 
Venues to be announced
To register: 212.564.6057

Sunday & Monday, 4/8 & 9, 12-5pm - Monthly Workers Meeting 
Damayan office, 406 W 40 St, 3rd Floor, btwn 9 & 10 Aves.

Sunday & Monday, 4/ 22 & 23, 12-5pm - Monthly Health & Legal Clinics.

To register: Lydia, 212.564.6057