At the Intersections of Low-Wage Work & Human Trafficking: An Interview with Gonzalo Martínez De Vedia

A Human Trafficking Specialist at the Worker Justice Center, Gonzalo Martínez de Vedia speaks about the varied ways the organization advocates for low-wage workers.
May 24, 2016
Julissa Andrade

Gonzalo Martínez De Vedia, is a Human Trafficking Specialist for the Worker Justice Center of New York, an organization that works tirelessly to empower low-wage workers across the Northern and Western parts of New York. This organization implements social services and legal advocacy efforts. In order to serve communities best, advocates work on larger systemic issues by speaking to politicians, provide attorneys in several court cases on behalf of the workers, and run constant community service outreach efforts.

As a former Cornell student, Mr. Martinez De Vedia was involved in the Immigrant Farmworker Initiative and also did work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. His time doing community outreach at Cornell exposed him to public service and motivated him to find a career in the field. He emphasized that his time at Cornell University was impactful and still informs his work today.

Currently, he contributes to a program that revolves around trafficking persons. The human trafficking program has made strides in working with partner agencies, law enforcement, government, and the faith based community to empower low-wage workers. He points out, “The bread and butter of our work is direct outreach. We think the only way to help a community is to take into account their needs and priorities,” and the Worker Justice Center does this by visiting workers, informing them of their legal rights and empowering them to monitor working conditions.

One of the major successes of the human trafficking program was establishing an anti-trafficking task force in the North Country region of New York State. In another recent success, the Worker Justice Center worked with This American Life to document and publicize the housing conditions of workers in Upstate New York in their weekly podcast. In doing so, the employees were able to advocate for themselves and eventually obtained new housing and a renewed sense of dignity. This demonstrates that advocacy for low-wage workers can include a variety of activities and take many forms.

Mr. Martinez De Vedia emphasizes that there is always more work to be done in the social justice realm. He expects that the Worker Justice Center will continue to grow and meet the needs of workers across New York every day. He emphasized that there is always going to be more need in order to address the systemic inequalities and abuses that workers face and that “there is no end to the number of ways that we can be working together to ensure dignity for low-wage workers in the state of New York and beyond.”