Representatives for two day laborers that have been on a hunger strike since Friday morning will speak for the first time with Rev. Rodolfo Hernandez and his staff Tuesday afternoon to demand the workers' pay.
Director of Immigration Solidarity DuPage Cristobal Cavazos organized today's meeting at 3:30 p.m. at the Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus Church-flea market complex in Aurora with the help of local immigrant advocates and church officials. He said the group receives a call every two weeks regarding similar wage disputes.
"We believe they will be an impartial moderator, kind of a conflict resolution source," said Cavazos, who was first contacted by the men last year after numerous failed attempts to work with the church's pastor.
Mexican workers Jose Cipriano Nevarez and Manuel Sanchez Vega worked for over three months in late 2008, having been contracted to dismantle an industrial air conditioning system at the church. Sanchez, a member of the church, then helped Cipriano, an artist, paint Mexican-style murals and additional signage around the complex at request of the property management.
Cavazos said the pastor would sometimes approach the men while they were working to "bless them for their work," first alerting them to a possible wage dispute.
When the pair finally approached property owner Rev. Hernandez at the end of their contract seeking compensation, he alleged that the men did the work voluntarily and refused to pay them.
"These men were here on a work visa and they don't have any money to go back to Mexico at this point," Cavazos said. "They have nothing to lose."
He added that the men were not given any special equipment or told that there were contaminants in the building while they were working on the air conditioning system.
"That's another unfortunate aspect that their lives have been shortened by that," Cavazos said, adding that the men are not seeking any kind of medical damages.
"They were promised to be paid," Cavazos said. "It was a verbal contract."
"I would expect other organizations to be involved in such shenanigans," Cavazos said. "I just didn't think that a church would do that."
The two men have been stationed outside the complex at 175 N. State Street since Oct. 8 in a small tent stocked with a few blankets. The men's signs denounce labor injustices suffered by immigrant workers across Chicagoland.
"They said they're in this for the long haul," Cavazos said, "but they are looking weak and tired." "We had to move on this issue," Cavazos said.