Mexican-American Workers' Association

Award Recipients - 2003

Jerry Dominguez, Founder

The Mexican-American Workers’ Association (AMAT) organizes workers in New York City.  Its mission is “to rescue the dignity of Mexican workers by training them to organize themselves for improved living conditions and by also committing to assist others.”  AMAT emerged in 1998 to fight against worker exploitation in the city’s green grocers.  Although it is illegal to pay less than $5.15 an hour, many of the workers are without documents, and most do not speak English and worry about being deported if they complain.  

Recognizing the precarious situation faced by the undocumented workers, AMAT enlisted the assistance of organized labor.  In 2000, after a six-month boycott in the Lower East Side, UNITE! won contracts at seven stores.  The unprecedented agreements represented collaboration among union, employer and government to the benefit of undocumented workers who received at least minimum wage, health and other benefits.  Seeking to accelerate worker protections, AMAT joined negotiations arranged by the State Attorney General with the Korean-American Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers resulting in a Code of Conduct in 2002 guaranteeing minimum wage, paid vacation, sick days, lunch hours, holidays and the right to unionize.  

In 2003, AMAT launched a campaign to organize the estimated 4,000 persons in the city’s laundromats and dry cleaners, primarily woman working 15-hour days.

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