Day Laborers In California

12 12 2010

I’ve seen them before, standing or sitting on the side of the road, eyeing every truck that passes by in the hope of a few hours or more of work. There’s frequently a ‘foreman’ who assigns workers and keeps chaos at bay, and workers tend to earn $8 – $10 an hour.

In New York City I saw day laborers occasionally. They had their spots – various street corners and commercial parking lots – where they gathered each day early in the morning. But if you drove around at normal hours and didn’t keep your eyes open for them, chances are you wouldn’t see day laborers around.

Los Angeles is less than three hours from the US – Mexico border. There are lots of Mexican neighborhoods around here, and I’ve been enjoying the panaderia (bakery) a few blocks away in Van Nuys. A few days ago I made a trip to Home Depot to pick up some water tank fixing items (hopefully…), and I didn’t at all expect the scene around the parking lot.

Snaking all the way around the street side of the Home Depot fence were at least 75 day laborers. They all seemed to be having a good time chatting with each other and eating lunch together, but wow. It’s hard to believe that there’s enough work for them all. I was in a bit of a hurry to get back and pick Ayo up, but I wanted to sit down and chat with a few of them. I’m interested in hearing their stories and am curious about their work, working conditions, and experiences with the police in California.

Next time.

posted by jay




3 responses

12 12 2010

Oh, I do wish you’d had the chance to talk with them… there is so much we can learn from our large extended family on this planet.

13 12 2010

I’m interested to hear their stories as well. Growing up in San Diego seeing the day laborers is such a common site that I almost don’t think about it anymore. They are a permanent fixture in the cityscape. I hired a couple of guys when we were moving out of our place and into the RV to help put our things in storage.

They told me they actually lived in Chula Vista (a city south of SD and VERY close to the border) but came up north (to the Home Depot funny enough) in the neighborhood where I met them because it’s a much wealthier neighborhood and they could get more money. Not only that they told me they’d sometimes get hired onto jobs for up to 4 months at a time!!!! That blew me away.

Anyways, interested to hear what you find.

13 12 2010

Interestingly, Wikipedia thinks that a lot of them are legal and that day labor is frequently a bridge to full time work.

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