The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) is an American organization dedicated to improving the lives of day laborers. It was founded in Northridge, California in July 2001 and is based in Los Angeles, California. NDLON functions in a form of direct democracy where day laborers who are in member organizations vote directly for the policies at NDLON's biannual assemblies. NDLON’s vision is to live in a diverse world where day laborers have full rights in an enticement with peace, harmony, justice and mutual respect. National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) was founded at the first national gathering of day laborer organizations. It started with 12 community-based-organizations and has grown to 36 member organizations.
NDLON has been an influence in the rise of workers rights campaigns since 2000. These include the wage theft laws passed in multiple states including Illinois, New York, Ohio, Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Day laborer organizing dates back to the mid-1980s with efforts from the community to organize and educate day laborers about their rights as workers and also educate them on their civil liberties. These continued efforts in the late 1980s led to pilot programs that helped create worker centers. Around the 1990s the government became more involved in certain cities. Some supported the worker centers while others tried to get rid of the day laborer sites. During this time organizers developed a two-step approach. The first step was a litigation strategy in the courts that challenged the solicitation ordinances. The second approach was an organizing strategy that allowed day laborers to come together to have more political inclusion and be able to represent themselves in front of governmental officials, law enforcement, and local stake holders. In this time period, marked one of the first efforts to discuss day laborer rights through all the trainings and retreats. It helped develop the day laborers as leaders in their communities. In the late 1990s organizers from the different centers were all exchanging strategies and organizing practices like “libretas” that were books that were distributed to the whole country eventually. Towards the end of the decade more formal attempts were made to create a formal organization with the collaboration of all the worker centers. In 1999 a national coordinator was added and a national agenda was created which led to the creation of the NDLON.
In August 9, 2006 after the largest immigration rights demonstrations happened, the AFL-CIO signed an agreement to work together with NDLON to improve the working conditions of immigrant day laborers. This development and the agreement were made possible because of immigrant rights activists trying to progress the rights of day laborers. Two Los Angeles community-based-organizations that helped in this historic movement were the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California(IDEPSCA) . Los Angeles has the greatest population of day laborers and these two organizations paved the way to provide day laborers the education and skills to advocate and to develop as leaders. The Los Angeles day laborer organizers developed two strategies. The first strategy was to encourage participation and self-organization among the day laborers. This leadership methodology was based on Paulo Freire principles of popular education. The second strategy was to build a relationship and reduced community conflict between the day laborers and residents and merchants. This was referred to as ”human relations”. These efforts emerged from the advocates to protect the rights of the day laborers to seek work in public spaces as under the First Amendment. Framing their rights under the First amendment helped solve conflicts between the day laborers and the surrounding residents. The national network was able to emerge as worker centers throughout the different states visited each other. For example Casa Latina from Seattle and CASA of Maryland visited Los Angeles to observe the job centers. These exchanges led to the first National Day Laborer convention.
National Day Laborer Conventions
At the national Day Laborer Convention in July 2001 over 150 day laborers and organizers gathered to focus on the priorities for the network. Its priorities were defined as 1) protecting the day laborers and their civil rights, 2) creation of more day laborer worker centers, 3) expanding the education and organization of the day laborers, and 4) organizing for a legalization program that will help day laborers who are undocumented. These priorities followed on until the next Day Laborer Convention. In September 2002 the Second National Day Laborer convention was held in Silver Springs, MD at the George Meany Center of the National Labor College. In this meeting over 250 day laborers and 18 community organizations gathered to create additional priorities and to help coordinate the network. After the second convention NDLON’s capacity as a national collaboration of organizations grew and continued to grow their leadership programs that were used to engage in politics and hold a national movement. The Third day Laborer Convention was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY in July 2005 in which they elected the NDLON’s Board of Director that helped NDLON on the path to become an independent organization as 501c3. In this convention they established a regional organizing strategy that will later help them respond quickly to attacks on the immigrant community. In August 2007 the fourth National Day Laborer convention was held at the George Meany Center of the National Labor College. In this convention they looked back on their accomplishments including the legislative visits, the relationship between the AFL-CIO and NDLON and the development of leadership trainings.
In 2005, NDLON was instrumental in defeating the Sensenbrenner Bill, aka HR4437, which was named after GOP congressman, Jim Sensenbrenner, from Wisconsin. HR4437 would have made it illegal for churches or nonprofit organizations to provide services to undocumented immigrants.
The organization has a staff of 10 and comprises 36 member organizations. Its executive director is Pablo Alvarado. In 2010, it won the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award.As an immigrant worker from El Salvador, Pablo Alvarado has a special connection to predominantly poor, Latin American immigrants who have traveled far from homes in search of work to support their families. Alvarado volunteered from 1991 to 1995 as program coordinator for the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), where he developed and implemented literacy programs for immigrants. In 2002, Alvarado became the national coordinator of the newly created National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), currently a collaboration of about three dozen community-based day laborer organizations. Under his guidance, NDLON works with local governments to help establish worker centers to move job seekers into places of safety. There, they learn how to handle exploitation, improve skills and gain access to essential services. NDLON strengthens and expands local worker groups and builds immigrant leadership by acting as a central resource for information.
Mr. Alvarado is the recipient of the Next Generation Leadership Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, which recognizes entrepreneurial, risk-taking and fair leaders who seek to develop solutions to major challenges of democracy.
In 2004, Pablo was also recognized by the Ford Foundation’s “Leadership for a Changing World Program.” In August 2005, TIME Magazine named Pablo among the 25 most influential Hispanics in the US.
The NDLON's member organizations include the following: