A Somerville-based immigrant rights group celebrated recent labor and legislative victories at their annual picnic last week.
Centro Presente worked with five employees of a Popeye's Chicken franchise in downtown Boston. After nearly a year of going without payment, the workers received $9,748 on the morning of July 1, the day of a scheduled press conference.
It was just one of the victories Centro presente celebrated Saturday, as they recognized student activists and the Welcome Project, another Somerville immigrant advocacy group.
Angel Fereras, a line-cook at Popeye's, was been a leader in the process for fair wages. "We will form a nucleus, a force, and we will keep fighting for immigrant rights," he said in a translated speech at Centro Presente.
Fereras, who hails from the Dominican Republic and has lived in the United States for 17 years, is the sort of ally that Centro Presente leaders said are needed in immigration reform discussions.
"We are nothing without our workers," said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente. She praised the group's persistence - they declined an offer of partial payment four months back - and their defense of the working man's dignity.
Centro Presente also honored the Boston chapter of the Student Immigrant Movement - young activists who slept on the steps of the State House in an around-the-clock vigil to protest a proposed Senate budget amendment that called for stricter measures aimed at illegal immigrants.
An undocumented student who accepted the award said that the group did not develop a specific plan, but instead acted out of instinct and necessity.
"Every social movement has had students in its front and center," said Gabriel Camacho, President of Centro Presente's Board of Directors.
The center recognized the Welcome Project as an "outstanding community partner" in Somerville. Centro Presente moved from Cambridge to Somerville in 2008, and they relied upon existing non-profits to help them integrate into the local community, Montes said.
The Welcome Project, based in the Mystic Avenue Housing Project, works with immigrant and refugee populations. The two organizations have collaborated in the past, most recently in youth programs and their involvement with the Student Immigrant Movement.
Centro Presente serves approximately 2,000 members every year, most of whom have roots in Central America. In the near future, they plan to initiate a worker's rights campaign, add Spanish courses for community members and maintain their youth leadership program.