Fuerza Laboral is a workers' rights center in Central Falls, Rhode Island whose mission is to shift the balance of power in our economy towards labor by educating, training, and organizing workers to become community leaders; by taking direct action to recover unpaid wages and improve workplace conditions; by forcing institutional changes that will better prevent injustices; and -- with our POWER Network Co-op Incubator program -- by constructing a network of worker-owned co-ops that will provide living-wage employment instead of the low-wage, exploitative jobs typically reserved for immigrants and people of color.
Fuerza was founded in 2006 by a group of immigrant workers and has been organizing around issues of economic justice. Fuerza is member-led: the organization's key decision-makers come from the community in which we organize. Our guiding philosophy is that those who directly experience economic and racial injustice must be leaders in the struggle to gain justice. Immigrant workers are themselves experts in labor exploitation and how systemic oppression operates and are thus in the best position to craft solutions.
Our Board of Directors is comprised of our most committed member-leaders who are elected to one-year terms each year by dues-paying members. The Board meets at least once a month to evaluate strategy and finances, make organizational decisions, and ensure our work continues to align with our vision. Each of our campaigns has two co-leaders from our membership who coordinate campaign meetings and facilitate consensus-based decision-making. Additionally, standing committees are each steered by two co-leaders from the membership. These structures provide specific tasks for interested members to take up, and the co-leadership model provides both stability and mutual support.
Fuerza has a transparent leadership-development process in which its members attend educational workshops and trainings where they are empowered to increase levles of involvement, responsibility, and organizational leadership. Fuerza's members not only participate but also facilitate meetings, lead actions, communicate with media, prepare other workers for actions, make strategic decisions regarding campaigns, and represent our organization to legislators and decision-makers -- that is, they take the lead in every aspect of our organization.
Our mission is to develop leaders to confront social injustice. As workers themselves are on the front lines of the injustices they face, they are the best equipped to solve their problems through powerful and creative actions that obtain concrete results. Our engine is our reputation, credibility, and confidence.
INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS AND FUNDERS
We'd like to give a special thanks to our institutional partners and funders for supporting and financing our work.
- BuildRI, Center for Family Life, City of Central Falls
- Direct Action for Rights and Equality
- Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative
- International Painters and Allied Trades
- Justice at Work
- Kirwan Law Office
- Navigant Credit Union
- National Education Association RI
- North American Industries
- Olneyville Neighborhood Association (ONA)
- Plumbers & Pipefitters, Local 51
- Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM)
- Progreso Latino
- RI AFL-CIO
- RI Building Trades, Laborers' Local 271
- RI Labor Law
- RI Jobs with Justice
- SEIU 32BJ
- SEIU Local 1199
- UFCW Local 328
- Umass Dartmouth Labor Education Center
- United Nurses & Allied Professionals
- University of RI, RI Labor History Society
- Working Rhode Island
- Ben & Jerry's Foundation
- Berger-Marks Foundation
- Catholic Campaign for Human Development
- Community Training and Assistance Center
- Dexter Donations Fund
- Haymarket People's Fund
- Left Tilt Fund
- Novo Foundation
- Peace Development Fund
- Presbyterian Fund for the Self-Development of People
- Third Sector New England - Inclusion Initiative
Building shared, lasting power
Fuerza's goal is to create an environment in which people who share a common problem can work together to solve it. Our members and staff inspire workers to expand their horizons. We ask probing questions, use storytelling to relate successes and challenges, and role-play new experiences so that workers feel thoroughly prepared for whatever task, be it a direct action, a press conference, or an interaction with the police.
Action is the lifeblood of Fuerza
Shel Trapp, founder of NPA and a mentor to Fuerza Laboral, once said: "Out of every hundred people, maybe five will be ready to move into direct action. I go where those five want to go."
We understand the fear of taking direct action, especially among people who are under constant threat of deportation. We address this fear head-on through training and transparent risk analysis. Members can then decide whether to participate.
The victories that come from those actions will inspire and embolden others to follow in their footsteps.
Heiny Maldonado, Executive Director
Raul Figueroa, Community Organizer
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Judith Carreño, President
Marcelino Victorino, Vice President
José Ignacio Hernandez, Treasurer
Gustavo Samayoa, Secretary
MEMBERS AT LARGE