Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 10, 2006
Days after dozens of protesters rallied at a day laborer site in neighboring Glendale, Burbank officials are preparing to celebrate the grand opening of a Home Depot and an adjacent hiring center.
They are also preparing for protests.
The City Council took the unusual step of requiring Home Depot to construct the hiring hall as a condition of building the store, sparking a contentious public debate with some accusing the council of catering to illegal immigrants. The store and the center are scheduled to open Thursday.
Protesters plan to attend the council’s meeting tonight, when the panel is expected to approve a one-year agreement with Catholic Charities to run the hiring hall. Demonstrators also plan a rally for Saturday at the new center.
“The end result is a loss of jobs that rightfully belong to American citizens, because of cheap labor and corrupt employers,” said Barbara Coe, chairwoman of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.
City officials said that when Home Depot applied for a building permit, they anticipated day laborers would gather in front of the store waiting for construction jobs.
To avoid tensions with neighbors, the council decided to make Home Depot responsible for building a hiring site, hoping it would provide a safe and orderly way for the laborers to get jobs.
“We’ve been proactive and I think we are doing the right thing,” said Burbank City Manager Mary Alvord.
The city of Los Angeles is considering an ordinance that would require all large home improvement stores to build hiring sites for laborers. But if Congress approves a pending immigration bill next month, cities would be prohibited from imposing such requirements on businesses.
But Burbank, not Home Depot, will own and operate the center, Gallagher said.
Home Depot must pay the city $94,000 each year, however, to cover the cost of additional city services related to the operation of the store. The city has decided to use the money for the daily operation and management of the temporary worker center, according to its agreement with Catholic Charities.