The PEOC is recognized throughout the region, and increasingly throughout the state, as a leading immigrant rights organization in eastern Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire. In 2009, we organized a successful campaign against the Riverside Border Patrol Station, which stopped the raids on day laborers by uniting a diverse coalition of supporters, developing a media strategy to call attention to quotas and racial profiling, and using legislative advocacy at both the local and federal levels.
In 2008, we entered into a partnership with the Laborers Union, Change to Win, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to organize low-wage immigrant workers. We created the Day Laborer Congress of the Inland Empire made up of over 80 day laborer leaders to advocate for day laborers’ rights on a regional level. Jointly with local community leaders, we created the Pomona Habla Coalition in 2008, which has dramatically decreased the number of discriminatory driver’s license checkpoints in the city.
During the academic year, the Center welcomes student volunteers six days per week (Monday through Saturday) to teach English as a Second Language (less regularly during the summer). Generally, ESL classes are offered from 8:30 to 10:30 and 10:30 to 12:30 and are taught by students from the Claremont Colleges, Cal Poly Pomona, and by community members. The teachers range from completely bilingual Spanish-English speakers to English Speakers with limited Spanish-speaking skills.
The ESL at the Center is primarily survival, work-based English focused on conversation skills. The language skills of the workers have a wide range – we have workers that do not have a high literacy level in their native language of Spanish, some who are at the beginning level of ESL, and others who are very advanced and essentially bilingual. More advanced students or those who want more intensive classroom instruction are encouraged to register for classes at the Pomona Adult Education Center or the Community Education program at Mt. San Antonio Community College (Mt. Sac).
A $10,000 grant the PEOC received from the California Foundation facilitated the initial development of a health education and outreach programs to the day laborers, put into action through collaboration of a part time day laborer health coordinator and volunteer Pitzer College intern. This primary phase of the health program resulted in approximately one dozen health presentations on a wide variety of preventative health topics, a carwash fundraiser raising over $500 in funds for an uninsured injured day laborer, the establishment of a day labor soccer team, and a free clinic where day laborers were given physical exams and clinic referrals.