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   Vol. 70/No. 46           December 4, 2006  
Day laborers win victory in Freehold, New Jersey
FREEHOLD, New Jersey—In a victory for workers’ rights, the Borough of Freehold has backed off from its attacks on day laborers, agreeing to settle a lawsuit filed by groups supporting immigrant rights.

The suit was filed in December 2003 after the Freehold town council voted unanimously to exclude workers from an area known as the “muster zone,” where they gathered each morning to seek work. A city ordinance was adopted that threatened “loiterers”—along with “horn-blowers” and those accused of obstruction—with a fine of $500 and 30 days in jail.

The lawsuit against the Borough of Freehold is one of several that have been filed in recent years by day laborers and their supporters to counter attacks by capitalist politicians and rightist groups across the country. The antilabor measures seeking to criminalize these workers include English-only local ordinances; penalizing companies or landlords for employing or renting to undocumented immigrants; giving local cops the power to check workers’ immigration status; and turning over to federal immigration agents those without proper documents. Workers also face antiloitering laws and selective and discriminatory enforcement of housing codes and vehicle and traffic legislation.

According to the Freehold settlement, the borough will no longer prevent the use of public property to pick up and discharge day laborers, or deny workers their free speech right to solicit jobs. The settlement calls for reimbursing $33,000 to workers fined on loitering or other trumped-up charges and paying the plaintiffs’ legal fees of $245,000.

Day laborers interviewed said things have improved since the settlement was announced.

“It’s good. Now the police don’t bother us as much,” said Julio, who asked that his last name not be used, as he waited for a job in front of a convenience store. “Before there were lots of inspections” of people’s housing, he added. Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Julio said he had participated in several of the immigrant rights protests in Freehold, as well as one of the massive protests in New York City this past spring.

“We’re out here because we can’t find work anywhere else,” said another worker, who declined to give his name as he waited for a job on a Saturday morning. “Women can find jobs cleaning or in the office, but if they didn’t they’d be out here too,” he explained. “And when we protest, we’re here, side-by-side.”
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