Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh came to the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center to hear from workers about what is really happening here. CIWC leaders gathered at the table with him to share their stories.
Gandhi Merida a construction worker, restaurant cook, and small business owner talked about the many sacrifices he has made to help his family. He worked as a Rod Buster for R&R Steel in Cincinnati, a workplace that was a hotbed of safety violations, racism, and wage theft. Together with several co-workers, he went on strike to oppose these conditions. Working with the Iron Workers Union and the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, they blew the whistle and filed successful wage theft and OSHA charges with various Department of Labor enforcement agencies. The Secretary thanked Gandhi personally for his bravery.
Diane Uduebor, a life-long legal secretary, organized the “Staff Committee for Racial Justice” at her law firm. Diane’s committee won across-the-board wage increases for support staff and an independent racial equity audit. Diane told Walsh that she was thankful for the support and that she was not done fighting. She is working now to unionize her law firm.
Rossangela Raxon, a member of the CIWC Board of Directors and a Guatemalan immigrant living in Northern Kentucky for 17 years told Secretary Walsh: “I know that the Latino community is very, very exploited labor because a lot of the times companies will know about the immigration status of the worker and they will take advantage of that,” she said. “And on top of that, one of the risks women — a lot of us immigrant women — faced in the workplace is sexual assault and sexual harassment. So many of us — because we need the work, we need to continue working — are unable to leave the situation … and have to stay silent in the face of sexual harassment and assault on the job.”
Responding Walsh said: “I want you to know that you’re not alone in this, I want to thank you for your courage, and I want you to know that the more people that step up and tell the D.O.L. about the injustices that are happening to them on the job sites, the stronger we’ll all be. (…) You’re laying down a foundation for the future workers.” When asked about immigration reform, Walsh closed with an important message “America needs a stronger union movement and we can’t organize immigrant workers without immigration reform.”
Secretary Walsh, the former Mayor of Boston was member and leader at the Laborers’ Union aka LIUNA. CIWC thanks Justin Phillips and Nikki Crenshaw of LIUNA Local 265 in Cincinnati for helping welcome the Secretary.