- Written by Janet Denise Kelly
26 Apr 2011
THE VIEW FROM HERE - Day laborers are becoming a hot topic across Los Angeles communities, especially in South Los Angeles. Besides the loitering and mass congregating, complaints are increasing about public drunkenness, brawls, urination, and other behaviors that are bringing down the quality of life for neighborhood residents.
Every problem has an anchor and a source. In this situation, it is Home Depot and the contractors.
It is not a surprise that Home Depot is the culprit. By far, most communities that have a Home Depot have a problem with day laborers. No one knows why Home Depot is a magnet for day laborers and other similar chains are not. The best explanations offered are that Home Depot is the number one retailer in home improvement and is popular with contractors.
If there is any additional accountability outside of Home Depot, start with the contractors who contribute to the problem by hiring day laborers for $5 to $10 an hour. If they cease the practice of hiring cheap labor, then we don’t have topic for conversation.
In a heated discussion last month with my neighborhood council meeting, a community member compared day laborers to prostitutes. I found the comment offensive because there is no comparison by far of a sex exchange for money and labor exchange for money. The two just don’t equate. One is a crime, the other is not.
In listening to the public comments, neighbors felt a sense of infringement on their quality of life. Loitering and other behaviors by the day laborers appeared to bring down the community standards, mainly during a time when the community is working extremely hard to change its perception and foster better living conditions.
In addition, most felt that day laborers were illegal immigrants and were not entitled to congregate on the sidewalks, streets, abandoned property, or commercial strip to solicit work. Allowing their presence was nothing more than promoting illegal immigration.
It’s hard not to have a position on this issue because the rights of the community and if any, the rights of the day laborer are at stake.
Legitimately, I believe the residents affected by the day laborers have the right to a clean and decent neighborhood free of loitering. Having day laborers hanging out for work all day long is an unsightly scene and nuisance that is frustrating.
On the other hand, these day laborers can’t work in our country legally and have no other recourse than to solicit under the table work from contractors in order to meet their basic needs. Without an economic opportunity, there is a potential for criminal activity. Despite what anyone thinks, they do have a right to food and shelter.
A win-win solution is to have Home Depot post non-solicitation signs and designate a spot for day laborers to congregate and have restroom facilities. Although this sounds like a simple solution, I am aware that this suggestion imposes on Home Depot’s right to operate business.
There is no other compromising solution that adds enforcement for the police department, removes the day laborer from the neighborhood sidewalks or parks, or creates a welcoming environment for customers to shop without an encounter.
No one really likes seeing people contained to an area, but it is the best humane solution that I can conceive.
The day laborer effect calls for a win-win solution, not a virulent one. Spending time debating illegal immigration or insinuating a need for day laborers to return back to the country of origin to appease the neighborhood residents only perpetuates negative opinions and shies away from the matter at hand of addressing the problem in compassionate way.
(Janet Denise Ganaway-Kelly offers more than a decade of accomplishments in the housing and nonprofit sector. Janet brings valuable insight in the areas of community and economic development. Additionally, she brings knowledge regarding the leadership and management challenges faced by large and small nonprofits that are struggling or growing organizations. She blogs at jdkellyenterprises.org ) -cw
Vol 9 Issue 33
Pub: Apr 26, 2011