The mission of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center is to provide an opportunity for day laborers to find safe work at a fair wage, to organize and advocate for themselves in relation to policies that impact their lives, to obtain new trades and skills that improve their employability and quality of life, and to improve the overall conditions for all immigrant workers.
To achieve these goals the Center engages in a variety of activities including labor rights education and employer mediation, improving access to resources in the local community and building coalitions, providing educational opportunities on worker and immigrant rights, identifying training opportunities in work and language skills, development of strong day laborer leaders through organizing and trainings, and advocacy to promote or change policies that impact low-wage immigrant workers. In addition to its main site in Pomona, the PEOC organizes day laborers among informal street corners in the Inland Empire.
Day Labor in Pomona
The City of Pomona, like other cities in Southern California and across the nation, has the challenge of assisting people seeking temporary employment. For a host of reasons, ranging from downsizing and layoffs to lack of education and professional skills, day labor is an option of last resort for individuals looking to support themselves and their families. Day labor is one last option many people have before opting to public assistance for their upkeep and well-being.
The City of Pomona has been key in the establishment and development of the Center, along with support from various private foundations including the Liberty Hill Foundation, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Public Welfare Foundation, and The California Wellness Foundation.
Fernando Romero – Executive Director
Fernando is the incoming director for the PEOC and started this position in January 2015. He comes into this position with an extensive background and experience in community organizing around immigrant rights and workers rights. He was the Lead Coordinator for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California from 2011 to 2014. With JFIC, some of the most prominent work at a national level was that of the unjust situation of the Migrant Children and Families in Murrieta, CA during July 2014. As a DREAMer student at Cal State Long Beach, he studied creative writing and journalism and was a co-founder of the first AB 540 support group at the university. He hopes to lead the PEOC with new and exciting projects for years to come.
Benjamin Wood: Community Organizer.
After majoring in languages at UCSB, Benjamin returned for a Master’s in Education and his teaching credential. While at Santa Barbara, he became involved in the grassroots organization PUEBLO, ultimately serving on board of directors. He returned to his Inland Empire community to teach high school and eventually transitioned to a career in community organizing, at first with a faith-based organization. He transitioned into PEOC in 2012. Benjamin’s activities as community organizer include AB 60 study sessions, coordinate and facilitate meetings with collaborative partners, hold leadership trainings for members and leaders, and create civic engagement opportunities for our leaders to advance different campaigns.
Eddie Gonzalez: Inland Empire and Lead Workers Organizer
Eddie is a the Inland Empire and Worker organizer at the PEOC. Eddie has extensive experience in union organizing with SEIU and empowering youth to make positive changes in their lives with the LA Commission for Children, Youth and their Families. He graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills with a degree in Sociology. He oversees the organizing work in Pomona and the Inland Empire. He coordinates the Fernando Pedraza Community Coalition in Rancho Cucamonga, facilitates leadership development workshops, and works with the day laborer soccer teams.
Javier Garcia: Day Laborer Coordinator
Javier is the Day Laborer Coordinator at the PEOC. Javier understands the immigrant struggle. Living in the shadows for over 15 years, he empathizes with working class people, especially those who have given up their birth place and adopted this country as their own. He knows what it is to be stigmatized in a strange land. Javier’s beliefs and values revolve around making a difference and utilizing his various skills and passions to brighten the future for all those that strive to better their lives.
Mariela Martinez is the Bookkeeper at the PEOC. She works for the Center on a part-time basis.
Board of Directors:
Miguel Caballero: President of Board
Miguel is a lawyer partner at law firm Perez & Caballero. He has extensive experience in immigrant worker organizing, union organizing, and legal advocacy for workers’ rights in the workplace. He worked with an immigrant worker collaborative and is a resource for immigrant organizing history in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.
Junko Ihrke: Secretary
Junko became involved with the PEOC in 2009 while as a student at Claremont Graduate University. She taught ESL for many years on the Rancho Cucamonga day labor corner and has organized their two biggest events: the Misa Jornalera in November and the Fernando Pedraza Memorial and Community Celebration in May. She is most proud of her work writing curriculum and developing an evening ESL class in Rancho Cucamonga as well as writing and directing a teatro, or street theater. Currently, Junko is the Board Secretary, the Fundraising Committee Chair Person, and still remains an advocate for Rancho workers.
Sheheryar Kaoosji: Treasurer
Sheheryar is the Treasurer for the PEOC a post he’s held for the past 2 years. He is currently the Campaign Director for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). His previous work in the Inland Empire included his work as Research and Policy Director with the Warehouse Workers United based out of Ontario, CA.
Gina Mirelez: Board of Directors (2014 to present)
Francisco Suarez: Board of Directors (2001 to present)
Francisco is a Member of the Board. He is a founding member of the PEOC, and helped start the organization in 1998. He is a prominent criminal defense lawyer in Pomona.
Yesenia Gonzalez – Board of Directors (2015 – present)