Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Welcome to the Official Blogspot of Damayan Migrant Workers Association!


DAMAYAN Migrant Wokers Association, Inc. is an independent non-profit grassroots organization based in New York and New Jersey that upholds and promotes the rights and welfare of Filipino migrant workers. It also raises awareness and organizes around issues of migrant workers, particularly domestic workers, to understand the root causes of these issues. Damayan is a Filipino word that means helping each other.

At the core of DAMAYAN is the leadership of highly committed Filipina domestic workers - nannies, babysitters, cooks, and housekeepers. Realizing that ninety percent of the 1,700 Filipino women who leave the Philippines everyday become domestic workers in foreign countries, DAMAYAN currently focuses on organizing Filipina domestic workers in New York and New Jersey, while being open for membership to all migrant workers and individuals who want to be involved.

  • Migrant Workers Education and Leadership Training
  • Job Training and Referral Program
  • Health and Legal Services
  • Catering Service
  • Volunteer and Internship Program
  • Networking and Campaigns


Membership is open to all individuals who are willing to support the migrant workers' cause. Membership requirements are: signing a membership form, paying the minimal membership fee of $5 a year, and taking the DAMAYAN New Member Orientation.


If you are not ready to become a member but with to be involved, then we encourage you to join our rapidly growing network of allies. Our network is composed of lawyers, doctors, students, activists and community members who contribute their time and talents in helping migrant workers through DAMAYAN.


C/O Metro Baptist Church
406 West 40th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212-564-6057
Fax: 212-564-6057

Past Event - Support Filipina Domestic Workers... Come to KASAULUGAN! (12/1)


5 Years Towards Our Rights & Liberation

*Kasaulugan is Bisaya for celebration.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Our Lady of Pompeii Hall
25 Carmine Street
Between Bleecker & Bedford Street
New York City, NY 10014

Subways: A/C/E/F/B/V/D to West 4th Street.
Walk South along 6th Avenue to Carmine Street.

Turn right and walk West along Carmine towards Bleecker.

5:00PM -- 11:30PM

--- 5:00pm doors open

--- 5:30pm dinner

--- 6:00pm cultural program

--- 7:00pm general assembly

--- 8:00pm 'til 11:30 dancing & celebration

$20 for membership

$25 for non-members, friends & allies

* Celebrate our victories in the last 5 years since DAMAYAN's inception

* Learn from our lessons and hear testimonies from domestic workers

* Join us for our annual assembly, dinner, dancing with a DJ

* Contribute to supporting our work towards our rights and liberation

To volunteer, make a donation or help organize the event, please contact us:

DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association

406 West 40th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10018

Telephone: (212) 564-6057


* We welcome solidarity statements from sister and allied organizations. Please view flyer attached.

Past Action - Justice for Imelda! (8/19)

WHAT: Rally Against Abusive Employer, Fight for Domestic Workers Rights

WHEN: Sunday, August, 19, 2007

TIME: 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

WHERE: 166 East 96th Street, between Lexington & 3rd Avenue

DIRECTIONS: 6 train to 96th Street, exit through the south east stairway


From July 2006 to February of 2007, Imelda was repeatedly exploited by her employer. She was hired as a caretaker for an elderly woman by the woman's two adult children, Debbie Goldberg and Ira Ballen, and was a live-in employee. She was left alone to do all the work; acting as a caretaker, cooking, cleaning, and doing other miscellaneous errands for the elderly woman. Imelda worked a total of 87 hours per week, 6 days a week. She was paid $6.90 per hour, barely enough for a living wage. She was not paid overtime, and beginning in 2007, her pay of $6.90/hr was a violation of the minimum wage, which has risen to $7.15/hr.

As the managers of their mother's finances, Debbie Goldberg and Ira Ballen are responsible for their failure to pay Imelda sufficiently and treat her with disrespect. Imelda, with the support of domestic workers and organizations, demand Goldberg and Ballen to:

1. Pay Imelda in unpaid wages, overtime pay and minimum wage violations;
2. Issue an apology letter to Imelda;
3. Respect the rights and dignity of all domestic workers.

Despite the vital labor domestic workers provide, for the local and international economy, the work force continues to be the unprotected. The vulnerability of domestic workers is not an oversight but an intentional and practical way for the employers in partnership with the government to exclude and benefit from the domestic labor of women workers.

Imelda's story is not unique. Imelda is also one of the 200,000 domestic workers in New York City who serve as the foundation for the labor and profit generated for businesses and corporations. Since US slavery, domestic workers have been systematically denied respect, recognition and protection as a workforce. She is also part of the 10 million overseas Filipinos work abroad and annually remit $15 billion dollars to sustain the Philippine economy. As migrant women workers, domestic workers are also the modern slaves of Third World countries like the Philippines. Imelda is just one of over 30,000 Filipino domestic workers in New York, who, like many other workers know, are forced to work in frustrating and abusive environments without legal protection from either the US state or federal government and the Philippine government.

Join the Justice for Imelda campaign, call upon NY State legislators to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, including a living wage and all basic benefits. Link arms with the growing movement to demand an end to abuse and modern slavery. Struggle for justice, dignity, basic human rights and liberation.

DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association is a grassroots membership led organization based in New York and New Jersey. It upholds the rights and welfare of Filipino domestic workers and challenges the root causes of forced migration. DAMAYAN is part of the NY Domestic Workers for Justice Coalition which has been fighting for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights since 2004. The NY Domestic Workers Justice Coalition includes: Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers, CAAAV's Kalayaan/Women Workers Project, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Domestic Workers United/Trabajadores de Casa Unidas, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, and Unity Housecleaners of the Workplace Project.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Health Fair Asserts the Basic Human Right of Filipino Migrant Workers

News Release
June 06, 2007

New York, NY - On Sunday, June 3rd, Filipino doctors of the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society in America (UPMASA) and members of DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association spearheaded a collaboration to bridge community health disparities by linking highly skilled professionals and marginalized domestic workers through Ang Kalusugan ay Karapatang Pang-tao (Health is a Basic Human Right) Health Fair. Over 150 individuals availed of the free services.

"We are excited about this project," stated Dr. Lou Publico, President-elect of the NY-NJ-CT UPMASA Chapter, "We hope to respond to the needs of our kababayans [compatriots] who may have difficulty in basic health screening services."

The health fair included the services of US Wellness - coordinated by Dr. Luchi Fonacier - and spanned three booths along Madison Avenue, between 25th and 26th Street. The Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. waived the booth registration fee in the spirit of serving the Filipino American community. Additional services and labor were provided by students from the NYU School of Dentistry, NYU School of Medicine student William Jalbuena Scheerer, Harlem Breast Center and Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan / Linking the Children of the Motherland. The health screening included: body mass index to determine relative obesity, blood pressure, glucose, oral cancer check, appointments for mammogram and pap smear, on-site breast exam demonstration, and one-on-one doctor consultation. UPMASA, led by National President Dr. Benny Jongco, showed up in full force with 15 doctors who interpreted screening results and advised participants. Drs. Jovienia Celo, Nanette Jongco, Melissa Young and Guillermo and Normie Narvaez solicited giveaways, including glucometers. Health literature from the NYC Department of Health were generously distributed to those who completed the screenings and other street fair attendees.

Maribeth Bautista, DAMAYAN Board Member, commented on the health professionals' invaluable contribution. "Many of our members rely on the free health fairs such as today's because we cannot afford health insurance."

There are an estimated 200,000 domestic workers in New York City - at least 30,000 are Filipinos. About 95% of Filipino domestic workers do not have health insurance. In response, DAMAYAN launched the LUNAS: Filipino Migrant Workers Holistic Health Program in 2005 to address the severe health crisis of Filipino domestic workers. The LUNAS Program aims to heal the community one worker at a time, through education and organizing; it aims to provide for the domestic workers basic health needs combined with the necessary information and skills to navigate the healthcare system. Collaborative health fairs are part of DAMAYAN's LUNAS Program. Lunas, which means "heal" in Tagalog, is partially supported by the New York Women's Foundation.

"Events like today are critical for many of us who do not know how to access services or are afraid to ask about free services because of our immigration status," added Bautista. "Many of us suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and are predisposed to diabetes. This is a result of not just bad eating habits but also of our conditions as oppressed migrant women workers." Filipino domestic workers in the US are part of the 10 million overseas Filipinos who have been forced to leave their families in the Philippines in search of higher income. The survival of their family depends on the sacrifices and exploited labor of migrant workers. Thus, Filipino domestic workers have stressful lifestyles that lead to poor health. The partnership with UPMASA pools the best health professionals in the local Filipino community and connects those who have the most urgent need, like the Filipino migrant workers.

While the Philippine government and US government both benefit from the $19 billion dollars in remittances and cheap labor provided to American families, government resources allocated to address the dismal health situation of Filipino migrant workers are scarce. "We understand that our poor health is linked to the deteriorating health of our families and homeland. In partnering with UPMASA and organizing 'Ang Kalusugan Ay Karapatang Pang-tao', we are affirming our right to have a life with dignity and good health - including the physical, social and economic wellness of our kababayan back home."

"We are happy to have successfully conducted the event," said Publico. "We look forward to nurturing collaborative relationships with organizations who are devoted to the cause of Filipino health.." ###

Friday, April 20, 2007

Death of domestic in NY draws outpouring of outrage and support

NEW YORK CITY – After ten days since launching the online petition, “Truth and Justice for Domestic Worker Fely Garcia!” over 500 individuals have registered support for the case of a 58-year-old Filpina caregiver who was found dead in her Bronx, NY apartment on March 14.
DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, a 350-members strong community based grassroots organization led by Filipino migrant domestic workers in New York City, initiated the campaign after members reported about the disturbing death of a fellow domestic worker, Felisa S. Garcia. Ms. Garcia allegedly committed suicide and left letters, one of which stated that she was abused and harassed by her employer in the Bronx.

The petition has been circulated worldwide– including signatories from 12 different countries, 22 states in the U.S., 100 cities and representing 98 organizations. Ms. Garcia’s death has garnered broad response from multiple sectors of overseas Filipinos and other im/migrant communities and allies–including labor unions and other workers alliances and associations, women, im/migrants, youth, students, academics, professionals, faith-based organizations and churches, and LGBTQ organizations.

Ms. Garcia migrated to the U.S. in 2001 to support her four children in the Philippines. She worked different jobs as a domestic worker to sustain her family’s need for food, shelter and decent education. Ms. Garcia was found dead by her landlady in the Bronx. Almost a month later since her death, her body remains in the morgue of the Jacobi Medical Center. Investigation and autopsy results will be disclosed within the week to Attorney Arnedo Valera, the Garcia family’s legal representative. The Garcia children have requested further investigation and an independent autopsy. Repatriation of Ms. Garcia has yet to be determined.

“Fely’s case strikes a sharp chord in our community,” said Linda Abad, organizer for DAMAYAN. “She is the embodiment of the hardship, sacrifice, and government neglect that millions of Filipino migrant workers experience, including here in the U.S.”

DAMAYAN released a statement on March 23 highlighting Fely’s connection to the 30,000 Filipino domestic workers in New York City. Filipino domestic workers in the U.S. are part of the 8-10 million Filipinos who are forced to leave the Philippines because of the economic and political crisis that is exacerbated by government corruption and anti-people policies. Upon migration, Filipino domestic workers face additional systemic barriers – low wages, long hours, no overtime pay, lack of benefits, family separation, racism and devaluation of women’s labor.

The “Truth & Justice for Domestic Worker Fely Garcia” has united the Filipino community across cities and countries. Filipino and Philippine solidarity organizations–such as Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines (NISPOP), Gabriela Network, Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), Ecumenical Fellowship for Justice and Peace, Alliance for Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines (AJLPP), Committee on Philippine Issues, Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada / Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance (UKPC-FCYA), Grassroots Women, British Columbia Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (BCCHRP), Liga ng Kabataang Pilipino, Bethune House Migrant Workers Refuge, BAYAN Philippines – have shown fervent support for the campaign. Allied workers organizations – Domestic Workers United, Women Workers Project, New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Andolan Organizing South Asian Communities – and individuals from unions – SEUI/1199, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Transit Workers Union (TWU), the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and UNITE-HERE – share in a common workers struggle. Im/migrant organizations have also shown solidarity – such as Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), Centro Hispanio Cuzcatlan, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, and Immigrant Justice Solidarity Project.

Academics from Barnard College, Cornell University, Pratt University, and University of California Santa Cruz along with students from 15 different colleges have also signed and circulated the petition.

“While we continue to demand truth and justice for Fely and her family, we also demand for policies that shall effectively protect migrant workers,” stated Zelem S. Guerrero, Chairperson of DAMAYAN. The $12.5 billion of annual remittances from overseas Filipino workers sustain both the Philippine and U.S. economies. Despite the considerable labor power and billions of dollars generated by migrant workers, there are no policies protecting migrant workers in the US, especially as women and domestic workers. Guerrero continued, “From Fely’s case, we see the need to have official written policies. For example, the Philippine government should adopt a policy that it will unconditionally pay for the repatriation of dead overseas workers.”

“Monday marks about one month since Fely’s death,” said Abad. “We will deliver our petition to the General Consul Ceclia B. Rebong. We hope that other domestic workers, the Filipino community at large and allies will join us in Fely’s memory and all migrant women workers.” On April 16, 2007, DAMAYAN will organize a Community Vigil for Truth and Justice at the Philippine Consulate, 556 Fifth Avenue, New York City, from 6:30pm-8:00pm. There will be candle lighting, community singing, flowers and banners.

DAMAYAN welcomes working in alliance with individuals, organizations and other institutions that share a common goal for pursuing truth and justice for Fely Garcia and her family.
“This fight for Fely is not just for her and her family,” stated Guerrero. “It is also for us who have been forced to migrate into modern slavery. It is our fight for respect, dignity, justice and liberation.”


To sign the ongoing online petition, please sign onto:

To participate and/or endorse the Community Vigil for Truth & Justice, please contact DAMAYAN at 212- 564-6057 or email us at DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association will celebrate its fifth year as an independent grassroots organization. Since its inception, the organization has helped retrieve over $70,000 in unpaid wages for Filipino domestic workers, conducted over 150 labor rights workshops, published a migrant workers resource manual Sulyap sa Aming Buhay, and organized four annual General Membership Assemblies. DAMAYAN upholds and promotes the rights and welfare of Filipino migrant workers; raise awareness, organize and mobilize around issues of migrant workers and challenge the root causes of forced migration. The organization works in alliance with various organizations for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. DAMAYAN envisions a society where families are not separated just to meet their basic needs – a society where there is equal opportunity to have a life with peace, justice, and dignity for all.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Damayan in the News: Suicide Allegations Hard to Believe on Garcia Case

Thursday, April 05, 2007

IN A press statement released March 23, New York-based DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association expressed the group's "deepest condolences to the children and family members of Felisa "Fely" Sales Garcia."

Garcia is a middle-aged Filipina migrant worker working as a caregiver for an elderly couple in the Bronx. She was found dead in the morning of March 14 in her Bronx residence where she was renting a room.

DAMAYAN dismissed allegations that Garcia committed suicide. Instead the organization is calling attention to the case by encouraging authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of Garcia's death.

"As fellow Filipina domestic workers, we express our outrage over her death and call for a thorough investigation of the conditions leading to her alleged suicide," DAMAYAN said.

DAMAYAN shares in the grief of Garcia's family as they pointed out that the group's members is composed mainly of women who are in the same situation as Garcia - Filipina "domestic workers who have families to support in the Philippines."

Garcia's children, still living in their hometown of Barangay Dacanlao in Calaca town, Batangas province, expressed disbelief that their mother will commit suicide, DAMAYAN said.

"As per reports from our membership, Fely's children do not believe that their mother could have committed suicide. DAMAYAN echoes the cry of the children and express full support in exposing the truth," the group's press release further stated.

DAMAYAN is hard pressed to believe the suicide allegations because of Garcia's primary role as family breadwinner. "What would drive a loving mother to take her own life and forsake the future of her children?" DAMAYAN noted.

"We grief for the loss of Fely as we grief for those whom have endure similar conditions of sacrifice, hardship and abuse. We are calling for a full and speedy investigation to ascertain the facts surrounding her death," the group added.

The group is particularly calling on the help of the Philippine Consulate in New York to ensure a thorough investigation of Garcia's death.

"We call on the Philippine Consulate to give full support to a modern hero who has supported her family and has helped prop up the Philippine economy with dollar remittances. We call on the Philippine Consulate to facilitate the reunification of Fely's body with her children in the Philippines," the group urged.

DAMAYAN is also seeking the help of the Filipino community, especially domestic workers, "to help not just by giving financial contribution to the family but to support our call for truth and justice over Fely's death."

"Fely's death provides a glimpse into the vulnerable experiences of Filipino domestic workers in the US. She was a widow who was forced to make a courageous decision, be uprooted from her homeland and risk living and working abroad in isolating, dehumanizing and abusive conditions," DAMAYAN further said.

"DAMAYAN members understand the hardship Fely experienced as a migrant domestic worker. Domestic workers lack protection by the US government and are often overwhelmed with working long hours, low wages, lack of benefits, racism and outright disrespect," it added.

If you have any information related to her death, her employment and her family here and in Batangas, please contact DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association at 212 546 6057 or

The organization has also organized an online petition for the Philippine government to assist in Fely Garcia's case. To sign the petition, visit

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Filipino Immigrants Mobilize to Fight New Immigration Bill

NEW YORK CITY - In strong opposition to the unjust, anti-immigrant House Resolution 4437 Sensenbrenner-King bill, Filipino organizations in New York City took action this past week to educate the community, launch a letter-writing campaign urging Senator Charles Schumer to oppose the bill in the Senate, and to demand comprehensive immigration reform and legalization for all undocumented workers.

On Saturday, February 4, members of Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, and Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines (NISPOP) gathered to listen to Attorney Ruben Seguritan discuss HR 4437 in a community forum. Filipino youth and workers expressed concern and outrage at the bill, which, if passed into law, would criminalize almost 14 million undocumented immigrants and any individual or organization supporting them.

“This is the height of class oppression and racism in the US,” said Damayan member Linda Abad. “Undocumented immigrants are mostly low wage workers like us domestic workers. As a result of the US multinational corporations’ exploitation of the Philippines, 10 percent of Filipinos migrate to other countries like the US to work for very long hours and very little pay, without benefits and protection. Rather than addressing our exploitation, HR 4437 wants to arrest and deport us. The US economy thrives on immigrant labor. It is just and fair for hardworking immigrant workers like us to be allowed legalization, not criminalization.”

“HR 4437 would undoubtedly criminalize countless undocumented Filipino youth, break apart their families and deny them the right of equal access to education, employment and social services," said Ofelia Virtucio, a member of Ugnayan, a local Filipino youth organization.

Ugnayan member Corinne Manabat added, “This bill blatantly brings injustices more than freedoms to immigrant communities who fight everyday for acceptance.”

Damayan, Ugnayan and NISPOP joined Immigrant Communities in Action, a coalition of over 20 immigrant organizations to oppose HR 4437 and demand support from Schumer, who has yet to take a position on the bill. A week of campaigns, forums, letter-writing and outreach in the Filipino community culminated in the Immigrant Justice Fair this past Saturday, February 11, where Filipino, Korean, Latino, Caribbean and South Asian organizations gathered to send a strong, unified message to policymakers and to celebrate the strength of their resolve through song, dance and theater.

Multiple generations from children to grandchildren, newly-arrived immigrants to American-born, wrote letters on colored paper shaped as hearts, to be delivered on Valentine’s Day to signify New York City’s love for the immigrants who support the economy and would be directly affected by the law.

"Attending the Immigrant Justice Fair gave me a better sense of how different immigrant communities can unite, gain a stronger voice, and support each other in the fight against HR 4437,” said Manabat.

To learn more about the campaign, attend an informational forum Sunday, March 5, 4-6pm, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, 95 Broadway, Jersey City, NJ. Get involved and contact DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, 406 West 40th Street, 3rd Floor, New York City, NY 10018, 212-564-6057.