Filipino Women Stand in Solidarity with PGCPS Teachers

For Immediate Release

August 6, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

Filipino Women Stand in Solidarity with PGCPS Teachers in Their Struggle Against Joblessness, Labor Law Violations, and The Broken U.S. Immigration System

The women of GABRIELA-USA send warm militant greetings of solidarity to the teachers of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in Maryland who are currently waging a struggle against joblessness, labor law violations, and a system designed to divide workers and exploit migrants of the United States. There are an estimated 19,000 migrant teachers currently employed in the U.S. public school system, most of whom are women recruited from the Philippines. Since 2005, the PGCPS district recruited 1000 out of its 9000 schoolteachers from other countries, the majority from the Philippines. As a national alliance of progressive Filipino women’s organizations, we understand how unfair U.S. labor laws and Philippine economic policies influenced by U.S. interests collude to create exploitative conditions for thousands of Filipino migrant worker women from all sectors.

In the case of the PGCPS teachers, over 800 teachers are in danger of losing their H-1B working visas and facing deportation due to a recent decision made by the Department of Labor. In 2007, the DOL began investigating a claim that the PGCPS district was forcing its migrant teachers to pay exorbitant placement and processing fees that should have been handled by the district itself. It is common for U.S. employers to bypass local and international labor laws by hiring foreign workers through third-party employment agencies. The DOL found the PGCPS district guilty of financially exploiting migrant teachers and ordered the district to pay the workers back wages that amounted to $4 million. However, the DOL also barred the district from renewing these migrant teachers’ visas, leaving hundreds of them facing lay-offs and deportation. The Filipino migrant teachers of PGCPS are in a crisis, because their prospects are slim. With mass budget cuts in education, not enough teaching jobs are available for the growing reserve labor force of teachers in the U.S. In addition, the reason many of these migrant teachers chose to leave their families and work in the U.S. public school system is that no jobs are available to them in their home countries as well.

In the Philippines, the people face rampant poverty, landlessness, and joblessness caused by corrupt governance and relentless intervention of U.S. imperialism in the country. The Philippine state has been subservient to the economic and political interests of the U.S., often upholding policies that violate the basic rights and freedom of the Filipino people. One such policy is the Labor Export Policy, launched during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s. This policy has been in effect even today, under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III. It maintains a systematic exodus of Filipino workers abroad into countries who promise better opportunities in economic niches unfulfilled by the receiving countries’ labor force. Despite the positive rhetoric attached to this process, the Philippine state requires these migrant workers—who often face employer abuse, wage theft, unfair working conditions, and human trafficking—to send mass remittances back home, not only to support their families, but also to keep the dwindling Philippine economy afloat. Over 4000 workers, more than half of who are women, leave the Philippines everyday in search for work abroad. This is good news only for the Philippine state that benefits from the backs of these workers, and for the U.S. that has historically desired a cheap, exploited labor force to drive its capitalist expansion.

In the current global economic crisis, we can see that the United States government has only been interested in preserving the livelihood of its rich elite and the private sector. Nationally and locally, it has slashed the budgets of the public sector—including that of public education and health care—at the expense of the masses of U.S. workers, native and foreign. This DOL decision, if not overturned, could negatively affect the PGCPS migrant teachers’ means of surviving and supporting their families in the U.S. and in their homeland. Not only do they lose their jobs, but they lose their homes, access to health care, and opportunities to care for their families. GABRIELA-USA is inspired by the migrant teachers who, despite facing such injustice, are steadfast in their fight for their basic rights and livelihood. We unite and stand in solidarity with the PGCPS migrant teachers and all exploited migrant workers until justice has been served!

Join GABRIELA USA and other organizations in support and solidarity with the PGCPS teachers at a White House Rally. Tell the Dept. of Labor NOT to deport migrant teachers who have excelled in servicing our youth and communities!

Picket Rally @ The White House
When: Tuesday, August 9th @ 2p.m.
Where: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20500 (btw East & West Executive Streets in front of Lafayette Park facing the White House)

Metro: Closest stop is Farragut North or Metro Center on the Red line & McPherson Square on the Blue line

There’s Still TIME to Sign Petition! Tell DOL Don’t Deport Filipino Teachers After School System Failed Them!

MGA GURO NG BAYAN, NGAYON AY LUMALABAN!

THE TEACHERS UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!

EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION!

PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS!

MABUHAY ANG MIGRANTENG PILIPINO!

Conditions for Women Worsen in Aquino’s First Year

Press Statement

July 25, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

Conditions for Women Worsen in Aquino’s First Year

While Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino delivers a message of hope and progress during the State of the Nation Address (SONA), thousands of Filipinos worldwide will take part in protest actions in an outcry to the worsening conditions of Filipinos at home and abroad.  Aquino won the hearts and minds of those who voted him into office with the slogan of hope and change, yet for the millions of Filipinos still suffering from poverty, economic plunder and injustice, there has been no change under Aquino’s administration.

Filipino women have suffered long enough, with the continued rise in basic commodities such as food, gas and water, to support their families.  Short term welfare solutions such as the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program which aims to provide government funding to those who meet certain criteria for things like enrollment for their children, vaccinations, check-ups at the doctor’s office, are dole out solutions which does not aim to address the root causes of poverty for the majority of Filipinos.  A survey among women who were recipients of the CCT program showed that 77% claimed the CCT could be more beneficial if it offered long term benefits like scholarships for their children or regular employment.

While programs like the CCT program are pushed as band aid solutions to provide basic services and necessities for poor families, Aquino has added the extra burden on women by taking away basic public services such as health care and public transportation, and handing them over to the private sector to supposedly “help” improve these services under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.  However, privatization schemes such as the PPP have proven to only to serve the wealthy multinational corporate investors while the majority of the nation continues to suffer, widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

Given the lack of real change, the Filipino people continue to leave the country in droves to seek employment abroad.  According to Migrante International, the state of our and welfare of Filipino migrant workers is “arguably the worst year for OFWs”.  Aquino has failed time and again to address the needs of our overseas compatriots including immediate evacuation and repatriation of OFWs affected by the conflict in the North African region of the Middle East; continued persecution and execution of Filipinos on death row; innumerous mandatory fees; failure to investigate allegations of misuse and corruption of the Overseas Filipino Workers Welfare Administration funds; and the lack of a comprehensive sustainable program for returned OFWs and their families.

While these human rights violations continue under the current administration, we cannot forget the thousands of victims still suffering during Arroyo’s reign of terror, which Aquino has done little to nothing to hold her accountable during her 9 year rule stained with a long list of scandals, tortures, abductions and political killings.  Aquino’s first term as President has not been much different than that of his predecessor, with 45 politically motivated killings, 5 victims of forced disappearance and over 300 political prisoners behind bars.

Aquino campaigned and won on a platform and slogan of change, but aside from the “look and feel” of a clean leader, change has not come in a profound way to the Filipino people.

As the U.S. chapter of GABRIELA- Philippines, Filipino women and their allies continue to hold Aquino accountable for the innumerous failures and false promises laid out by Aquino and his administration, and call for the immediate prosecution for former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  The women of GABRIELA demand that long term sustainable policies such as the support of the passage of the P125 wage increase, the passage of the Reproductive Health bill and other economic measures that ensure immediate and long term relief for the women and their families, be at the top of Aquino’s agenda.

A list of protest actions across the US in support of the people’s protest against Aquino’s State of the Nation Address are listed below.  For more information contact gabrielawomen@gmail.com.


FiRE – New York

Sunday, July 24 – 12pm

At the corner of Roosevelt Ave & 69th St in Woodside, Queens.

Babae & Samaka – San Francisco

Monday, July 25th

5:30pm Meet @ Powell BART

6:00pm March to Philippine Consulate (447 Sutter St. in SF)

* Please wear black and red *

SiGAw! – Los Angeles

Monday, July 25, 2011 – 5:30 PM

At the Philippine Consulate: 3600 Wilshire, Los Angeles, CA 90010

Pin@y sa Seattle – Seattle

Sunday July, 31, 2011, 11am-4pm

Pista sa Nayon Information Booth and MK Survey – 5895 Lake Washington Blvd. S


Filipino American Women in the US Stand with Undocumented Journalist, Jose Vargas

Press Statement

July 17, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

Filipino American Women in the US Stand with Undocumented Journalist, Jose Vargas

Members of GABRIELA USA stand in solidarity with acclaimed journalist and Pulitzer Prize Winner Jose Vargas, who recently published an article in the New York Times about his life as an undocumented resident in the United States.

His story represents one out of the million undocumented Filipinos in the U.S. Vargas’s article has exposed the U.S. immigration system as one that strips human beings of their worth based on citizenship. Regardless of one’s social contributions, whether as a writer, healthcare professional, student, teacher, or domestic worker there is no clear path to citizenship.

Member organizations of GABRIELA USA and other immigrant rights advocates have been raising the need for “Legalization for All” since 2006 when the Sensenbrenner Bill was about to be passed, which would have criminalized undocumented immigrants and those who helped the undocumented, and again in 2010 when Arizona’s SB1070 legislation would have allowed police to racially profile and question anyone that “looked” like an undocumented immigrant. However, due to the outpour of resistance from immigrant communities and allies nationwide these bills were not fully enacted into law.

“We applaud Vargas and his truth-telling because he shows the reality of the Filipino community, and it’s important and crucial that we as Filipinos, undocumented or citizen, stand up for the rights of all immigrants,” said Tina Shauf from Babae in San Francisco.

Vargas is one of many Filipinos, undocumented or not, who migrated to the US as a result of the poor Philippine economy brought about by a long history of colonialism and imperialism. The pressures of an economy completely lacking in any national industry; the overwhelming debt of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank; and the unfair Labor Export Policy that forces Filipinos to leave their homes in order to seek jobs overseas–has led to a culture of migration, one that necessitates that Filipinos leave their country if they want to be able to support their families, and which ironically, ultimately breaks many families apart.

“We have seen the effects of the U.S. Immigration system on our community– mothers and fathers being separated from their families for years because they don’t have the right papers to travel back home. Parents should not have to leave their children and families in order to support them, there should be jobs in the Philippines to provide some economic stability,” said Irma Bajar, chairperson of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York City.

“Our migration story is not old, our families have been migrating to the US in waves since the Filipino farm workers in the 1900s, to the nurses in the 1970s, and still to this day there is no systematic way for immigrants to become a citizen. This is the US continuing to use the immigration system in it’s original design to create a workforce of undocumented immigrants as cheap, docile, fearful, and vulnerable workers to extract as much profits for the U.S. Corporations. The system is not broken, but it is meant to divide workers and further exploit immigrants and push them into the shadows.” said Raquel Redondiez, chairperson of GABRIELA USA.

Vargas’ article has helped raise the discussion and the need to change the dehumanizing immigration system.  His courageous expose is an inspiration for other immigrants, and has encouraged others like the Florida 15, trafficked workers from Miami Florida, to speak out. Similarly, undocumented students in San Bernadino, CA rallied against the unjust immigration laws that criminalize students working hard to be productive contributors to U.S. society.

“In Los Angeles, which is predominantly Mexican and Latin American – Vargas’s article has helped raise the issue of immigration as a unifying issue for our communities. We must continue to keep fighting together on this issue to assure that we change this immigration system not just for Filipinos but for all immigrants,” stated Terrie Cervas of Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw) in Los Angeles.

As long as our homeland and many others in the world are plundered for their natural resources and prevented from industrializing, as long as our people are displaced by militarization, and our governments plagued by corruption, forced migration will continue to be a problem. “To address the needs of immigrants in the U.S., it is necessary for us to also address the reasons why our people are forced to leave our home country to begin with. The Philippine government has a hand in it as well,” says Claudia Parras from Pinay sa Seattle.

In support and solidarity with Jose Vargas, and millions of other undocumented immigrants, we urge that you sign this petition of support and help spread awareness on this important issue: http://bit.ly/100k-4-Colbert.

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US Delegates Link Arms with Women From All Over the World at the First International Women’s Alliance Assembly in Philippines

For Immediate Release
July 8, 2011

Reference: Valerie Francisco, GABRIELA USA, Solidarity Officer, gabwomen@gmail.com

US Delegates Link Arms with Women From All Over the World at the First International Women’s Alliance Assembly in Philippines

Manila, Philippines–From July 5 to July 6, 10 delegates from GABRIELA USA organizations Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) in New York, BABAE in San Francisco, Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGAw) in Los Angeles and Pinay sa Seattle in Seattle, joined by Monica Moorehead, a representative from the Women’s Fightback Network, NYC joined the first general assembly of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) in the Philippines. In attendance was over 100 women from 60 or more grassroots women’s organizations from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Oceania and North America. The theme for the assembly, “Advance a Militant Anti-Imperialist Women’s Movement: Strengthen the International Women’s Alliance,” brought these women together to accept new members, ratify the alliance’s constitution, agree on an international plan for the next 4 years and elect the first-ever executive council of the IWA.

Monica Moorehead, one of the esteemed speakers of the first day plenary, shared the hardships and difficulties that are faced by working women, women of color and poor women in the US. She identified austerity measures and rampant attacks on migrant rights as key issues that women in the US struggle against. “It is timely for an assembly like this, an alliance like this to form because the attacks of imperialism on our people are intensifying and therefore the response of women from the grassroots must get stronger.” Moorehead’s contribution to the assembly brought light to the fact that even in the “developed” countries, women, their families and communities still fall victim to neoliberal attacks on social welfare and freedom.

The second day of the assembly called upon the expertise of delegates in women’s organizing and resistance strategies against the impacts of imperialism. Workshops on different global regions and their inputs ultimately became part of the IWA’s 4-year plan of action. Valerie Francisco, GABRIELA USA’s solidarity relations officer and a member of the organizing committee for the assembly stated, “Learning about the conditions and issues of women from different parts of the world allowed us to see the common patterns of imperialism and inspired us to take up resistance strategies that worked for women’s organizations in other places.” The time for delegates from the US to exchange lessons produced productive and informative discussion on forms of action and struggle.

The first general assembly ended with the recognition of “Women of Valor” who have dedicated their lives to cause of women’s rights and issues in the anti-imperialist struggle. The recognized women were Nanay Mameng Deunida of the Philippines, Clelia Santos of Argentina, Leila Khaled of Palestine and Edith Ballantyne of Sweden. The assembly ended on a high note as the delegates accomplished all of the goals set out for them, honored women in their ranks and looking forward to coordinating and working together with other women’s grassroots organizations in the future.

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GABRIELA USA celebrates pride month by continuing to fight for LGBTQGNC rights

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson of GABRIELA-USA

E-mail: chair@gabusa.org

This June, in the midst of pride celebrations around the country, GABRIELA USA, a national alliance of progressive Filipino women’s organizations, is agitating, organizing, and mobilizing their communities in unwavering support for LGBTQGNC rights. Through a human rights and immigrant rights framework, GABRIELA USA sees LGBTQGNC issues as embedded in struggles worldwide for economic, political, and social justice.

For the Filipino community, LGBTQGNC rights are international in scope. Since its founding in 2009, GABRIELA USA has been committed to highlighting LGBTQGNC issues in the broader context of the national democratic movement of the Philippines and other social justice movements in the U.S. Every year, through exposure programs to the Philippines, GABRIELA USA women have had the opportunity to meet with Philippine-based organizations Lesbians for National Democracy (LESBOND) in Baguio City and ProGay in Quezon City. Both groups affirmed the important role of LGBTQGNC people in the struggle against gender-ans sexuality-based violence, exploitation, and discrimination as well as the struggle against poverty, foreign intervention, and the ever-worsening global economic crisis.

In the U.S., GABRIELA USA celebrated last year’s pride season by launching an official campaign to promote and defend LGBTQGNC people and relationships, and their equal access and ability to meet basic needs. This campaign continues today as GABRIELA USA organizations participate in various community pride events, and host workshops and discussions to educate members and the community to increase awareness, advocacy, and support for LGBTQGNC issues. This year is especially historic with the recent passage of gay marriage in New York, more than forty years after the Stonewall riots, marking another milestone in the gay rights movement. “The news of this victory is a strong reminder that organized power is truly the way to bring about change,” says Raquel Redondiez, chairperson of GABRIELA USA. “It is one of many steps that need to be taken for LGBTQGNC rights. We hope other states follow after New York, but there is still much to be done. A path to legalization for LGBTQGNC immigrants is an issue that must also be addressed.”

In New York, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) has endorsed the Trans Day of Action on June 24, 2011, a protest rally and march that highlights the issues of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, especially those who are people of color and of working class backgrounds. In addition, TDOA endorsers demand health care, full legalization for all immigrants, an end to profiling, harassment, and brutality at the hands of the police, and an end the U.S “War on Terrorism”.

In Seattle, Pinay sa Seattle kicked off their pride festivities with a fundraising event called “Solstice”, that raised money for members of the organization who will be partaking in this summer’s exposure program to the Philippines. They also conducted a Queer 101 educational discussion for the community. Pinay will also be participating in the Dyke March and Pride March, on June 25 and June 26 respectively.

In the Bay Area, Babae San Francisco will mobilize for the Dyke March on June 25 at Dolores Park. They will also conduct post-Pride events, such as a Queer Pinay Brunch for the queer pinays in the community.

In Los Angeles, Sisters of GABRIELA Awaken! (SiGAw!) focused their efforts on building community partnerships to strengthen their forces for gender and sexuality issues. They also fundraised for the founding assembly of the International Women’s Alliance to take place this July in the Philippines.

In celebration of our LGBTQGNC sisters and brothers, and in advancing the fight for LGBTQGNC rights and welfare, we we hope you can join us in any of the above activities!

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Filipina Women Celebrate the Adoption of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers by ILO

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson of GABRIELA-USA

E-mail: chair@gabusa.org

Today, the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted a historic convention that outlines comprehensive labor standards for domestic workers across the globe. The Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers is much needed and long overdue, as domestic workers comprise one of the most vulnerable groups of laborers in the world. Numbering more than 100 million, and consisting mostly of women from impoverished countries, domestic workers are routinely subject to abuse, wage theft and exploitation. Tragically, much of this happens under the radar, as domestic work has historically remained unregulated.

GABRIELA USA celebrates the ILO’s adoption of this important convention, in sober recognition of the fact that Filipinas make up a large proportion of the world’s domestic workforce at an estimated 5 million women. Though the labor of Filipinas continues to be a signature Philippine export via the Labor Export Program, the Philippine government provides no protections for these women — even as the Philippine economy has grown increasingly dependent on remittances from overseas workers. Given this context, the creation of international labor standards and the support of the international community are crucial to the wellbeing of Filipina domestic workers worldwide.

But even with the adoption of this convention, it is important that we continue to organize for domestic worker’s rights in our own communities. One year ago, collective efforts to advance domestic worker’s rights in New York culminated in the passage of the New York Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights — legislation that gave new rights to domestic workers, including the right to overtime pay, protection from harassment and paid leave. Now we are fighting for the same rights and benefits on the West Coast, as the California state legislature considers the passage of its own Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. The bill was recently approved by the California Assembly on June 2nd, and is now currently waiting to be passed in Senate.

The ILO convention is an important step forward for domestic workers, but it is also a reminder that our work is far from over. The voice and power of domestic workers can only be harnessed through organizing the workers themselves, along with advocates and supporters. Once these international labor standards are in place, it will be up to us to ensure that they are implemented within our own communities, for the benefit of domestic workers both here and abroad.

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No justice as Chairperson of Commission on Human Rights, Etta Rosales and Aquino administration fails to uphold the rights of Filipino-American torture survivor, Melissa Roxas.

For Immediate Release

May 19, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA, chair@gabusa.org

No justice as Chairperson of Commission on Human Rights, Etta Rosales and Aquino administration fails to uphold the rights of Filipino-American torture survivor, Melissa Roxas.

On February 14, 2011, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines released its resolution on the case of torture survivor Melissa Roxas, a Filipino-American activist who was abducted on May 19, 2009-exactly two years ago today, along with her two companions in La Paz, Tarlac by agents believed to be members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In her affidavit, Roxas describes in detail the mental and physical torture that was inflicted on her while she was held incommunicado for six days. Despite overwhelming evidence pointing to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the CHR and its chairperson Etta Rosales finds that, “there is insufficient evidence to support this conclusion, and insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probable perpetrators.” To make matters worse, the CHR carelessly points the fingers to the New People’s Army as the perpetrators without any evidence.

Though Melissa Roxas is the first Filipino-American who was subject to torture and abduction, there are over a thousand other activists who’ve fallen victim to extra judicial killings, and hundreds more who’ve been abducted and have yet to surface, like U.P. students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, both abducted in 2006 in the province of Bulacan. These violations occurred during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration in which she implemented the counterinsurgency programs, Oplan Bantay Laya 1 & 2 (Operation Freedom Watch) to supposedly fight “terrorism” in the Philippines. However, Oplan Bantay Laya 1 & 2 only wrecked havoc in the lives of thousands of Filipinos who were killed, tortured, imprisoned, harassed, and villages ransacked by military forces, forcing families to leave their villages and seek refuge elsewhere. During Arroyo’s tyranny, the international community ranked the Philippines as the second most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq.

It is appalling that the U.S. government continues to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the current Aquino administration by providing millions in military aid and participating in joint military exercises or Balikatan Exercises (shoulder to shoulder). The Philippines has had a grave record of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration and continues to rise under Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. If the U.S. government truly prides itself for being an advocate and protector of democratic principles, it should immediately stop monetary and military aid to the Philippines. The promise of “change” by both the Obama and Aquino administrations remain a useless slogan as injustice prevails in the Philippines and the perpetrators who commit these violations continue to live with impunity while others live in fear.

“The CHR resolution on Roxas’ case is a step backwards and sends a clear statement that survivors of human rights violations cannot trust the very institution whose supposed purpose is to protect the interest of the victims and survivors,” states Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA. “Worst of all, this resolution attempts to protect the unpopular reign of former President Arroyo, whose administration was rocked with scandals, including thousands human rights violations. We challenge President Aquino to hold Arroyo accountable for her responsibility as commander in chief and her contribution to these violations. We want the U.S. government to stop all military aid to the Philippines and scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement.”

GABRIELA-USA celebrates the courage of our friend Melissa Roxas, other survivors of torture and abductions, and the families of the disappeared, who are determined not to be silenced and to continue to fight until justice is served. If you’d like to support Melissa Roxas’ continued struggle, please sign the open letter to demand justice by clicking here.

JUSTICE FOR MELISSA ROXAS!

JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!

STOP U.S. MILITARY AID TO THE PHILIPPINES!

SCRAP THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT!

Portrait by Franz DG

mroxas_fire

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment with Melissa Roxas and Marie Hilao, Chairperson of KARAPATAN Human Rights Organization

Babae with Mel Roxas

Babae San Francisco with Melissa Roxas

Samaka with Mel Roxas

Samahan ng Kababaihan (SAMAKA) with Mel Roxas

Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SIGAW) with Mel Roxas

Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SIGAW) with Mel Roxas

GABRIELA-USA Marches to Advance the Rights of Immigrant Workers on May Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA
Email: chair@gabusa.org

May 1, 2011 — On International Worker’s Day, member organizations of GABRIELA-USA: Babae-San Francisco, Samahan ng Kababaihan San Francisco (SAMAKA), Pinay sa Seattle, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) in New York and Sisters of GABRIELA Awaken (SiGAw) in Los Angeles stand together with the international community to defend the rights of workers, especially the majority of whom fall victim to exploitative situations and are deprived of their basic rights. This May 1st, we are mobilizing and participating in local May Day marches hosted in our respective cities, to celebrate and stand in solidarity with workers worldwide.

As the on-going economic crisis continues to devastate working families, especially immigrant communities and women, the fight to protect their rights is ever more crucial as scapegoating and deportations threaten our families and livelihood. As an example, domestic workers and caregivers have taken unprecedented steps to ensure equal protection and recognition for their work. In California, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is in progress of reaching the state senate for passage. This bill would grant fair wages and standards to protect them from exploitation, including their right to overtime pay and at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Last fall, this Bill of Rights was passed in New York and other states have yet to catch up in improving working conditions for domestic workers, many of whom are immigrant women. We must also continue the fight against wage theft in home care facilities and build on last year’s victory where Filipino caregivers in San Francisco, Victoria Aquino and Lourdes Torres won over $70,000 in unpaid wages and penalties after filing suit against their employer.

As immigrant workers are continually scapegoated during the economic crisis, we must expose the root causes of forced migration.  Due to unequal U.S. foreign policies and trade agreements along with the cooperation of puppet governments, the working poor in 3rd world countries are forced to leave and seek work elsewhere.  As an example, the systematization of the Labor Export Program (LEP) in the Philippines currently forces nearly 4,000 Filipinos to leave their country everyday, 70% of whom are women. However, even through a government-sponsored export program, protection of their rights as workers is not guaranteed. In fact, in July 2010, a group of workers from the Philippines arrived in the U.S., hoping to provide for their families back home. Treated as indentured servants, 11 of them escaped and sought out for help in Los Angeles. To this day, the Philippine government has given very limited support to this group of workers, now known as “Luha Ko”, pushing them to turn to local grassroots organizations in seeking justice.

GABRIELA-USA calls on all women and their families to continue the struggle against forced migration and for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S.  We join the working men and women of the broad immigrant rights movement to demand from the Obama administration an end to the raids and deportation that are tearing our families apart! As vital contributors to the U.S. economy, immigrant workers, whether documented or undocumented, need protection, not criminalization!

Justice and Protection for all Workers!
Pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in California!
Legalization for ALL immigrant workers!

Sunday, May 1st Marches in local GABRIELA-USA regions:

FiRE – New York
MARCH AND RALLY at UNION SQUARE! WEAR RED and meet at 12pm on the SE corner of Union Square (Across from ShoeMania).  Look for our GORGEOUS rainbow FiRE flag!

Pinay sa Seattle
Meet at Hidmo parking lot (20th and Jackson) at 12 noon. We’ll be wearing tubaos. We’re joining the annual May 1st march led by El Comite, and we’ll be marching with  local Bayan forces and in solidarity with our API Unified contingent.

Babae and SAMAKA of San Francisco
Meet at 24th Street and Mission at 12 noon. WEAR RED. Local Bayan and GABRIELA organizations are joining AROC (meeting near Bank of the West), and Progressive Workers Alliance (behind McDonalds).

SiGAw in Los Angeles
Meet at Broadway & Olympic at 10am. Marching in Downtown LA as a part of the Southern California Immigration Coalition.

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GABRIELA-USA Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary and Milestones in Building Filipino Women’s Power

For Immediate Release
March 29, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, chair@gabusa.org

GABRIELA-USA Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary and Milestones in Building Filipino Women’s Power

Launch of iVOW Campaign, International Women’s Alliance, and Freedom for Morong 43 Amongst their Successes in 2010

Seattle– On March 26, 2011, five member organizations of Gabriela USA, Samahan ng  Kababaihan (SAMAKA) and BABAE San Francisco, Pinay sa Seattle, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) New York and Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGAw) Los Angeles came together to hold their second National Chapter Council meeting to assess their accomplishments in 2010 and plan their advancement for the next year.

National Chapter Council members represented their organizations of Filipino women who consist of mothers, working women, professionals, and students. The National Council reviewed their organizational growth in 2010 and their main campaign IVOW v. VAW (Violence Against Women), which reached and moved hundreds of women in their homes, schools, and communities–  to pledge to raise their voices against the the different forms of violence inflicted on women.

On March 29, 2011, GABRIELA-USA across the U.S. celebrates their 2 year anniversary and the successes of the last year which include:
Successful Launch of IVOW vs. VAW (Violence Against Women) in 4 Major Cities in the U.S.
33% growth in membership and formation of SAMAKA- an association of Filipina mothers, elders, and working women
Mobilizing over 50 members and allies to the Montreal International Women’s Conference held in August 2010

Forwarding a truly internationalist perspective in building sisterhood and solidarity across the globe, GABRIELA USA was instrumental in organizing the Montreal International Women’s Conference (MIWC) and the formation of the International Women’s Alliance in Canada and also participated in the International Alliance of Migrants and Refugees activities in Mexico.  GABRIELA members throughout the U.S. also joined with other community organizations and alliances in protesting the wrongful detention of the Morong 43 in the Philippines, half of which were women.

In 2011, GABRIELA USA will be launching a national research project on the situation and issues of Filipino women in the US, continuing their IVOW campaign, and focusing on the growth and expansion of their alliance.  This summer, GABRIELA-USA will be sending delegates to the First General Assembly of the International Women’s Alliance which will be held in Manila, Philippines.  GABRIELA’s next General Assembly will be in March 2012.

gabusa_miwc

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FilAm Activists Protest Aquino’s State of the Nation Address

FilAm Activists Protest Aquino’s State of the Nation Address | Balitang America

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau, San Francisco and Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau, New York
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A day after President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address, Filipino-American activists from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and New Jersey held simultaneous demonstrations protesting Aquino’s presidency.

Last night, activists in San Francisco held a protest march all the way to the Philippine Consulate.

These FilAm protesters say while they’re giving Aquino a chance to prove his worth as president, they’re also keeping a watchful eye on him.

Bernadette Herrera of the Samahan ng mga Kababaihan said, “Kailangan mapagbantay ang mga mamamayan.  Kung may maganda siyang ginawa, suportahan natin.  Pero kung may masama siyang ginawa, kailangan nating tuligsain para ma-remind siya na baguhin ang mali.” (We need to stay vigilant.  If he does something right, we need to support him.  But if he does something wrong, we need to hold him accountable.)

These activists say enough with the talk.  They want action.  They want to know if Aquino can truly champion all Filipinos, especially those working overseas.

Terry Valen of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns said, “We’re going to continue voicing our opinions as long as human rights violations are being committed, as long as overseas workers are being exploited, as long as immigration reform is not happening here in the United States, and Aquino does nothing about it.”

To be able to do his job as president, these FilAm activists say Aquino needs to stop dwelling on the past administration’s faults.

Elaine Villasper of Gabriela-USA said, “He spent so much time blaming Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during his State of the Nation Address.  We were waiting for his plan.  What is he going to do to find money for the Philippines, to lower poverty line, to answer these issues that he says Arroyo left him?”

These FilAm activists say instead of talking about corruption among politicians, Aquino needs to keep track of government spending.

Joshua Castro of Bayan USA said, “If there is discrepancy as to where the money is spent, then there should be an investigative process to make sure that the money is accounted for.  There are plenty of resources but we have to make sure that the money is spent properly and it goes where it’s supposed to go.”

Meantime, FilAm activists in New York and New Jersey say Aquino may have a lot riding on his shoulders right now, but the country’s future is at stake.

They held a protest last night in the heart of the Filipino community in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Protesters say Aquino’s State of the Nation Address lacks the teeth they were hoping for and does not include the demands they were asking from him.

Gary Labao of Bayan USA said, “Unang-una, narinig natin ang matamis na talumpati ng bagong administrasyong Aquino, subalit nalulungkot kami dahil malaki ang kakulangan sa kanyang mga pangako.” (We have heard those promises from Aquino before.  But we are disheartened that there is so much lacking in his promises.)

Yves Nibungco of Bayan USA added, “Unang una po wala po rito ang mga tunay na programa para tigilan yung pag-migrate ng mga kababayan natin dahil wala diyan yung job creation, national industrialization, yung genuine agrarian reform, at yung pagpapanagot kay Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.” (There are no programs to stop the migration of our fellow Filipinos.  There are no programs on job creation, national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform and holding Arroyo accountable for her past administration’s errors.)

Hanalei Ramos, a Gabriela USA member said that if President Aquino feels weighed down by the mess created by the former President, then he should start investigating and prosecuting Arroyo, “GMA needs to be held accountable for all the atrocious human rights violations that have accumulated over the last 9 years.”

This group also wants the U.S. forces completely out of the homeland by junking the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Meantime, a Jersey City resident who happened to see the protest said it’s premature to grade a new President’s job performance at this time since it’s only been a month since Aquino took office. “Alam mo ang mga tao walang patience, It doesn’t take overnight para mabago mo ang iyong country.”(People have no patience.  It doesn’t take overnight to change the country.)

These Filipino activist groups in New York and New Jersey vow to keep a close watch on President Aquino’s every step… to remain vigilant and to keep the pressure on the president until all their demands are finally met.