The Pasadena-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) paused Wednesday to honor immigrant workers who have died during the pandemic.
The group held a Workers Memorial Day Virtual Service and Concert at Villa Parke during which organizers called for immediate amnesty for the surviving family members of the deceased immigrant workers.
As part of the tribute, 600 hand-made pine crosses were installed along the park to represent the thousands of workers who have passed away during the health crisis.
The concert took place without an in-person audience, but families of excluded workers that died during the pandemic were scheduled to speak, along with community and immigrant worker leaders.
“The Workers Memorial Day Virtual Service and Concert and art installation will honor the many immigrants who have sacrificed so much to continue working and supporting our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” NDLON said in a statement before the event.
In Los Angeles, County where 23,000 people have died of the virus, COVID-19 has killed Latino residents at a rate nearly three times that of white residents, according to the LA County Public Health Department.
In addition to the placing of the crosses, NDLON planned to release a report Thursday on the “Impacts of the Global COVID19 Pandemic on Immigrant Workers and People of Color in the United States.”
The 10-page document details disparities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and makes recommendations for actions that President Biden can take without need for additional congressional approval, according to NDLON.
In an accompanying statement entitled “600 Crosses,” NDLON co-executive directors Pablo Alvarado and Nadia Martin said Wednesday, “The virus has challenged the proposition that in this country, all workers—all people—are created equal. It was a test that we failed as a society. We did not always protect the ones who faced the greatest danger of sickness to keep the rest of us safe. We did not protect the vulnerable. We were unable to keep our elders safe.”
“‘Essential workers” have died by the tens of thousands over the last year, at far greater rates than others, the statement added. “We all know this, but as the praise from politicians and on social media has subsided, not enough people are talking about it. And almost no one is doing anything about it.”
“Black and Brown workers, who make up a disproportionate number of “essential workers,” have also died disproportionately,” said the statement.
Alvarado and Martin called the crosses “a symbolic final resting place to bring together those who are gone with those who are grieving. The crosses, made of simple pine, will each be marked with a name, date of birth and death, and occupation of someone who died in the pandemic.”
“The cross is the symbol of ultimate sacrifice, of suffering and death endured so that others may live,” the statement continued. “The rows of crosses will resemble a military cemetery, to evoke the vast scale of the loss and to also make an important connection. …We must no longer ignore and dismiss them.”
NDLON said it planned to memorialize Gil Espinosa, a warehouse worker, age 44. Alfredo Manriquez, a gardener, age 54. Mónico Manríquez, a gardener, age 83. José Antonio Bernabe Lule, age 61, a day laborer, organizer and immigrant-rights leader. Garment workers Antonio Macías, 63, Enrique Garcia, 34, and Filiberto De la Cruz, 62. Day laborers Marina Villanueva, 60, Francisco Delgado López, 98. Godofredo Rivera Hernandez, 70, a day laborer, dry-cleaner worker and musician. Policarpo Chaj, age 49, a Mayan K’iche leader, organizer and court interpreter.