At Progreso Community Center, we believe that grassroots community members play an important role in processes of structural social change. The role of community members can only be developed if the strength comes from the bottom of our community. The strength that comes from the bottom-up demands the constant strengthening of relationships and horizontal interaction between people and groups that form community-based organizations like ours.
In our community organizing efforts, we use a rational approach so that we can have an understanding of how the system works in different social and economic contexts. The understanding of the system builds our capacity and empowers our community organizing rationally, not by chance, impulsive, or circumstantial actions. Our rational community organizing campaign has taught us that we can also be part of the solution to any problem that might be associated with us as a community.
READ BELOW THE COMMUNITY ORGANIZING CAMPAIGNS THAT FOUNDED OUR ORGANIZATION
DAY LABORERS ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN
Successfully organized Hispanic day laborers to defeat proposed local ordinance SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2005-728 that intended to make it illegal for day laborers to solicit work. This organizing campaign offered day laborers the opportunity to civically engage in addressing a local legislative proposal that targeted them due to their vulnerability as immigrants. Under the proposed local ordinance, day laborers were considered a safety problem for people driving at the intersection of Murfreesboro Road and Thompson Place where they solicited work. They also were associated with the increasing problem of prostitution, drug trafficking, alcoholism, and littering, contributing to the deterioration of the neighborhood with a negative impact on the businesses in the area. Through a collective rational and participatory decision-making process, we reflected and deliberated about the arguments presented by the Davidson City Council's proposed ordinance. This approach led day laborers to identify what parts of the problems they were associated with were within their reach to solve them.
Day laborers demonstrated that the safety argument of the bill was not valid because they did not solicit work on the sidewalks or streets. Furthermore, they presented the argument to the sponsor of the bill that that area has historically been a "red zone" with prostitution and drug trafficking as problems, so solving those problems was not within their reach. Finally, the issue of littering was looked into, and the day laborers assumed the responsibility of leaving trash at the place after they left the corner; therefore, that was the issue in which they could be part of the solution. It was decided to act cleaning up not only the corner where they solicit work but beyond that area in collaboration with the business and neighborhood associations of the area, as well as the Beautification Department of Davidson County. The rational approach taken by day laborers of being part of the solution to a problem which was under their control "killed" the proposed local ordinance. This community organizing approach proved that members of our community had the capacity to address policy issues that until that time were addressed by people within our own community who excluded community members that were directly affected by policy implementations, such as this one at the local level.
TACO STANDS OWNERS ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN
Successfully defeated BILL NO. BL2005-860 organizing Hispanic owners and employees of mobile taco stands to address concerns from the Davidson City Council about the proper hygienic handling and food preparation and to avoid the prohibition of these small businesses in Davidson County. Based on the organizing capacity of our compañeros day laborers, taco stands owners addressed the issue of their businesses being banned in our county. Therefore, it was decided to act civically at the local level. The first step was to rationally reflect on the content of the argument presented in the proposed local ordinance. This argument was focused on the sanitary aspects of appropriate and hygienic handling of the food sold by these small businesses. The rationality of this organizing process led taco stand owners to the conclusion that there were some of them who did not know how to hygienically and properly handle the products to make food under the regulation of the Davidson County Metropolitan Health Department's Food Division; consequently, avoid losing their businesses.
Taco stand owners invited the sponsors of the local ordinance to community meetings where they listened to the concerns of the City Council members who, again, argued that the ordinance was a matter of public health. Since taco stand owners were committed to selling food handled hygienically and properly, a committee was formed to request training by the bilingual inspector from the Food Division of the Davidson County Metropolitan Health Department for all taco stand owners who obtained the authorization to sell food from the county. The day before the training, there was a meeting in which taco stand owners and their employesreflected on the importance of being part of the solution when there were valid arguments regarding public health.
The day of the training, the response of the taco stand owners and their employees was remarkable because here were over 80 people in attendance including relatives of the business owners and employees, sucha as spouses! Each of the participants of the training received a certificate from the Davidson County Metropolitan Health Department Food Division to continue selling food in our county under the norms established by our conunty's health department food division . Afterwards, a meeting with the main sponsor of the ordinance was requested at the City Council to present him the certificates of training as proof of the collective effort of this segment of our community for the wellbeing of people in Nashville. The Council member was pleased that the taco stand owners and employees fulfilled their commitment to putting public health before anything else. Consequently, the proposed local ordinance was "killed" and the small business owners countinued doing business. The collective and participatory process of organizing part of our community was well worth it because it was possible to save the source of income for the owners, the employees, and their families. Again, once more it was proven that our community members could solve problems without the intervention of those who traditionally negotiated on our behalf.
HISPANIC IMMIGRANT WOMEN WORKERS ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN
Successfully organized a group of 15 Hispanic women workers who were being discriminated against and sexually harassed in a multi-million dollar corporation. Like many women in our community, these women were being abused by a manager of a large corporation. However, they could no longer stand the discrimination and sexual harassment under which they had to work. After an initial meeting, they found out that there was a good possibility of retaliation of being fired by the manager if they complained to the headquarters of the corporation. However, they said that they did not mind losing their jobs because their dignity as worker women and Hispanic immigrants was more valuable than a job.
The complaint was directly presented to the headquarters of the corporation asking for them to take action to stop the discrimination and sexual harassment. After that complaint, the manager fired the 15 women. They visited the headquarters a second time to notify them about the actions of the manager. The person in charge reinstated the 15 women. However, the manager continued with his unlawful actions. This was when it was decided to reach for legal assistance, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was contacted. With the legal advice of SPLC the case was settled. After the settlement, the women donated six computers and founded the "Voices of Hope" computer lab at Progreso Community Center.
This problem involved a community organizing campaign in which the women learned about the process of filing a formal complaint due to discrimination and sexual harassment. This was important because they followed the procedure required by the corporation to successfully get to the legal aspect of this process. Furthermore, this community organizing involved the assistance of the SPLC through its Justice for Migrant Women Program.