Making a Place for Workers

Dan Laidman and Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Daily News, Sept. 11

Los Angeles would become one of the first major cities in the nation to require big home-improvement stores to create shelters for day laborers under a recently drafted city ordinance that takes aim at regulating the controversial issue.

The move comes as city leaders seek to aid a growing number of laborers who gather at such stores to solicit informal construction jobs and to quell rising community concern about loitering, security and other effects on neighborhoods.

“This multimillion-dollar business ignores the fact that these problems are created by the stores,” said City Councilman Bernard Parks, who has proposed the ordinance.

But critics say such regulation—which would require stores to create shelters that provide ‘a minimum level of amenities,” including access to drinking water and toilets—could simply lead to larger problems, and community activists and others say it does little to offset their concerns.

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But the gathering of day laborers outside of stores such as Home Depot has become a growing controversy in communities including Sunland, where activists are seeking to block Home Depot’s plans to open a store on the site of a shuttered Kmart.

“When we open that door, day laborers will be right here,” said community activist Jescik Amarian, adding that she’s so concerned that she’s thinking of moving because her house and tree-lined street abut the proposed site.

“I feel bad for laborers, but it shouldn’t have to be this way. . . People shouldn’t have to look for jobs on the streets. They are running the risk of (creating) insecurity and violence.”

The concern mirrors that in hundreds of areas across the country—a problem that has divided communities and brought accusations of racism and even lawsuits.

“People are afraid of day laborers, but few try to talk to them,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of National Day Labor Organizing Network, which represents thousands of workers.

“When people realize that day laborers are men with families, trying to bring food home, the human connection will be established; they will no longer see the worker as a criminal but a human being.

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