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Day Laborers, Latino - DAY-LABOR WORKER CENTERS

hiring sites workers market

No formal definition of day labor exists, although the term is mostly used to convey a type of temporary employment that is distinguished by impermanency of employment, hazards in or undesirability of the work, the absence of fringe and other typical workplace benefits (e.g., breaks, safety equipment), and the daily search for employment. More specifically, day labor involves a group of men (and some women) who congregate on street corners, empty lots, or parking lots of home improvement stores, rental truck outlets, and paint stores to solicit temporary daily work. This type of work is growing and increasingly visible in those cities throughout the United States that have large concentrations of the working poor and Latino immigrants. Day labor is unstable and poorly paid, with most workers obtaining only one or two days of work per week, with wages clustering between eight and ten dollars per hour. The work that day laborers perform is often dangerous and dirty, and it is mostly in the fields of construction, landscaping, moving, demolition, and painting. With the exception of a few studies, little is known about this labor market because the workers move in and out freely; federal agencies inadequately define day labor, and thus do not count the participants accurately; and a large proportion of these workers are foreign-born, unauthorized, and Latino, making them difficult to study.

DAY-LABOR WORKER CENTERS

In addition to the hundreds of informal hiring sites that have proliferated across the United States, 64 day-labor worker centers, or formal hiring sites, have been established by community organizations, municipal governments, faith-based organizations, and other local stakeholders. The goal of these centers is to curtail wage theft, abuse, and hazardous working conditions. The creation of day-labor worker centers is a relatively recent phenomenon, with most having been established since 2000. Worker centers are typically located near informal day-labor hiring sites, offering both workers and contractors an alternative to the unregulated sites found on street corners and in parking lots. Indeed, location can be a crucial determinant of a center’s success, and these hiring sites are frequently established in areas where both workers and employers have ready access.

Most day-labor worker centers provide fairly basic accommodations to workers and employers. All operate as hiring halls where employers and day laborers can arrange work for the day. Available amenities and services typically include restrooms, drinking water, places to sit, telephones, classrooms, outreach to employers, and parking facilities. But even such simple provisions are a marked improvement over informal hiring sites. Moreover, they serve to establish a worker center’s presence in the day-labor market. The primary purpose of day-labor worker centers is to regulate the day-labor market by intervening in the market and establishing rules governing the search for work and the hiring of laborers. Through these core activities, worker centers are able to place a “safety floor” under conditions in the day-labor market and curtail abuses and workplace injuries.

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