- Works to protect and expand the rights of day laborers in the U.S., most of whom are illegal immigrants
- Supports an immigration-reform movement that includes anti-deportation, pro-amnesty agendas
Established in July 2001, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) seeks to “protect and expand [the] civil, labor, and human rights” of day laborers in America, of whom approximately 75% are illegal immigrants. Moreover, NDLON aims to “mobilize” and “organize” these workers as a unified, politically active demographic, and to force employers to establish “safer more humane environments” wherein day laborers can “earn a living” that enables them to “contribute to society and integrate into the community.”
NDLON was created at the first-ever National Day Laborer Convention in Northridge, California, an event where a contingent of more than 150 workers and organizers gathered to lay out a set of specific priorities. These included the establishment of “day-labor worker centers” where illegal immigrants could be encouraged to congregate and wait for employers to hire them on a per-diem basis, and the promotion of “a legalization program to regularize the status of undocumented immigrants.” At its inception, NDLON consisted of 12 community-based organizations. It has since grown into an alliance of more than 50 member groups including such notables as Casa de Maryland, CARECEN – Los Angeles, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, and the American Friends Service Committee‘s Newark, New Jersey chapter.
In its second year, NDLON formed a steering committee to help coordinate the growth of the Network and the expansion of its activities. In 2005, the organization named a board of directors which has been meeting on a monthly or bi-monthly basis ever since.
Today, NDLON administers four major initiatives:
1) The Migrant Rights Project (MRP) condemns the federal government’s “Secure Communities” program—which helps ICE and the FBI collaborate to identify criminal aliens—as a heartless “deportation dragnet” that has had a “devastating impact on families” of illegal immigrants. MRP also opposes the 287(g) program—created in 2001 to grant local police the authority to enforce civil immigration laws—as an embodiment of “racial profiling and abuse of power” that sends “a chilling effect through immigrant communities.” In a similar vein, MRP has denounced SB-1070, a 2010 Arizona law deputizing state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of criminal suspects. According to MRP, this “nazi-like” statute has spawned the introduction of “copy cat” bills in more than 20 other states—a trend that NDLON dubs “the Arizonification of the country.” In a related endeavor, MRP’s “Breaking ICE’s Hold” initiative has helped build “a powerful movement against the poli-migra”—a pejorative term signifying the “entanglement of local police and ICE.”
2) NDLON’s Labor Rights program fights to expose and end the allegedly widespread practice of “wage theft,” whereby employers withhold pay or benefits that are owed to workers whose illegal immigration status renders them “vulnerable” to such abuse. To protect such workers, the Network pushes to have U.S. labor laws cover them fully.
3) The Workplace Health & Safety program seeks to minimize the physical risks that day laborers—many of whom perform “the dirtiest, most difficult and dangerous jobs”—routinely face but are reluctant to report to OSHA or to their employers, for fear that they might be terminated as a result. Toward this end, NDLON oversees a core of more than 10 organizations that train employers and advocacy groups to better understand “the day laborer perspective” on issues of workplace safety.
4) The Day Laborers program is “dedicated to addressing best practices and issues related to street-corner hiring sites and the establishment of worker centers.” Specifically, the Network opposes city loitering ordinances that could interfere with day laborers’ efforts to find work.
NDLON’s national coordinator is Pablo Alvarado, a legal immigrant hailing from El Salvador, who in 2010 won the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award. This honor was named after the late Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt (Letelier’s assistant), both of whom were assassinated in a 1976 car bombing. Further, Alvarado once received the Rockefeller Foundation‘s Next Generation Leadership Fellowship; was recognized in 2004 by the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World program; and in 2005 was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States.
In October 2013, NDLON helped coordinate an immigration-reform movement that employed particularly aggressive tactics to promote its anti-deportation, pro-amnesty agendas. For example, some demonstrators used chains and pipes to shackle themselves to the tires of buses that were used to carry (to court hearings) immigrants slated for deportation. Others blocked traffic on Capitol Hill and intentionally got themselves arrested in the process. Still others surrounded police who had stopped two Hispanic immigrants in Tucson, Arizona for a traffic violation. And others blocked the entrance of a federal detention center by chaining themselves to the structure.
Since the mid-2000s, NDLON has cultivated an increasingly close working relationship with the Laborers’ International Union of North America (a member of the Change to Win federation) and the AFL-CIO. In August 2006, for instance, NDLON and the AFL-CIO reached an agreement to organize day laborers into unions, and to allow day-labor centers to apply for union membership with AFL-CIO local and state affiliates.
NDLON has received financial support from a number of philanthropic entities, including the Discount Foundation, the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Hill Snowdon Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Rosenberg Foundation, and the Sirad Foundation.
 A Capital Research Center analysis explains the logic underlying this position: “If illegal immigrants can become an unremarkable part of the American landscape—living more or less like anyone else here—perhaps public opinion about illegal immigration will become more favorable over time.”
 “It’s absolutely out of frustration and impatience,” explained NDLON campaign organizer Marisa Franco. “Immigrant communities who are losing 1,100 loved ones every day to deportation cannot wait for Congress to end its political games or for the President to rediscover his moral compass.”