Day Laborers Find Jobs Scarce

En Español.

It’s a bright Thursday morning and 10 men are outside the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective. Inside another 30 men sit in the waiting room. A few check e-mail and Facebook on the four computers available. In the back, a thin man plucks the strings of a guitar. All of the day laborers are waiting patiently for their names to be called for work.

By 11 a.m. no one had been called.

Although San Francisco is in the midst of a building boom, workers at the Day Labor Program, located at at 3358 Cesar Chavez Street, are still struggling. If you are lucky, said one of the workers, your name may be called three or four times in month.

“The [bad] economy that affected so many lately has been getting better, but not here. Not with us,” said Marco Figueroa, a 40-something worker.

Before the 2008 recession, Figueroa said, he worked steadily. And for a brief moment at the beginning of the poor economy there was still plenty of work because employers were seeking the cheapest labor possible, he added. But then the jobs disappeared and never really returned.

A recent report by the National Employment Law Project found that the United States has recovered from the recession’s job loss, mostly in low-wage industries. There are 1.85 million more low-wage jobs than when the recession started, according to the report. However, mid- and high-wage jobs have not reached their pre-recession levels.

This is not the case for Mission District day laborers, said Emiliano Bourgois-Chacon, director of the Day Labor Program. He said that work has not picked up for the men who seek their services — but it has for the women. Most of the women work as housekeepers or nannies, and according to the director work has increased by about 15 percent for the Women’s Collective.

He’s unclear why women are faring better, but the increase in household work might be coming from a new wave of residents who can afford help. The women earn $70 for the first three hours, and $15 and hour for every additional hour.

The men at the day labor center mostly get called for construction, landscaping, and moving jobs. They earn $50 for a minimum of three hours, and $15 every following hour.

Many of the men end up getting jobs on their own, usually by standing outside at other locations, although the day laborers here said that they prefer the center because the minimum pay has already been established.

But work has been so slow at the center, that the staff thought some men were returning to their home countries (an idea that could not be independently confirmed).

In November, a Pew Research Center report said remittances to Latin American countries have recovered since the recession – except for in Mexico. The World Bank projects international migrants are expected to send $436 billion to their home countries this year.

At the Mission’s Day Labor center, Santiago Soto said he has cut back on sending remittances to his mostly adult family in Guatemala.

“When I can, I send them money, but I’ve told them not to rely on me,” said Soto, an older man with grey hair and mustache. At one time he had employers who would regularly hire him directly for handyman gigs a few times a month. Now he relies mostly on the work from the center.

Recently, Soto has had to tell his family that work is not going so well:

“So don’t count on me, because I can barely make ends meet.”

 

13 Comments

  1. godzuki

    Seems like there could be some sort of partnership/intermediary to connect these job seeking folks with some of the Mission businesses (Valencia Street restaurants that hire fairly often, for example)…looks like there’s a need for labor and people who want to work so….

    • Sam

      Much of the appeal of the current informal method of hiring day workers is the anonymity of it and the fact that the transactions are “off the books”. If you create an intermediary there would no doubt be record-keeping requirements imposed upon it, and they would scare away many of the workers, and perhaps also the individuals and businesses who hire them.

      Many of the day workers are here illegally and are distrustful of any documentation of their activity. A “cash in hand” method of payment, with no taxes, SSI or workers’ comp withheld probably suits a good proportion of the workers, and keeps the cost of their work more attractive.

      I’m not saying your idea isn’t a good one. Only that I suspect a significant number of the workers prefer a more informal and anonymous arrangement.

  2. Jordan

    Realistically Day Laborers are going to do subsistence work until they die?

    This is not a long term solution. Perhaps we need a program to ship them to places with more work.

    • Ricardo

      I agree that we need to send them elsewhere.

      • Ed

        I agree. How about Noe Valley, or Bernal Heights? Lowest per-mile shipping costs, no customs needed, and handling insurance will be minimal.

        Oh wait a minute–are the people in your “we” actually shipping people, or an object of little value? I’m confused.

        • Ricardo

          Ed, Why do you have to be a racist? Is it because I have an authentic Latin name and you have a white trash name? We are all humans and deserve to be EQUALLY treated. How can you judge someone else without walking in their shoes? Life is not easy when you do not speak the language and did not have access to the educational system. Ed you are a RACIST….. I say we take your racist citizenship away from you …… Please do not vote…..Please

          • JPG

            Right on Ricardo !! Tell it like it is.

          • Ed

            I think you’re missing my point Ricardo. The idea of shipping somebody twenty feet across Cesar Chavez from Mission to Bernal, or slightly further up the street is as ridiculous as shipping charges etc. My comment is pointing out the de-valuing of a human life or the value of their labor if they are being treated as a commodity that can be shipped. Anybody who thinks they have the right to ship or get rid of another person is assuming a superiority. I am mocking and calling out that assumption.

            And this is the Internet where people make up their screen names. Maybe I am Eduardo and you are Richard. Maybe I am Tanesha and you are a different Tanesha. Judging race by a made up screen name is kinda silly.

            The important point here: if you believe that all our neighbors have the right to work then we’re on the same side. Peace.

        • JPG

          Ed,
          Enough with your crapola. Have you no shame !

          • Ed

            Shame for questioning Jordan’s suggestion of “shipping” fellow human beings? No, I have no shame for that. Nobody should be “shipped” like a cow or a coat. People have the right to work in their own communities and our neighborhood is stronger if its residents are working for a fair wage.

  3. Ricardo

    Ed, the only people I hate more than racists are closet racists like you. Why don’t you just drive down mission street with your gas guzzling lifted Hummer with a train blow horn screaming la migra. Your hummer show how you love to waste limited resources….. Another example, MY people like small dogs like chihuahuas . I have seen you walking that huge Great Dane that you own who eats god knows how much let alone the size of its po that is filling up the landfill and causes asthma to young children who lice by the landfill because the rents are cheap. You should just dress your great dane with a white bed sheet ala the KKK so we can at least see your true colors…… Pretty sure you are my neighbor Ed but if not I apologize…. Lifted fum mer diesel Wagon year 1996 ring a bell you racist?

    • Sam

      Ricardo, seems to me that you like to dish out stereotypes a lot more than Ed does.

      • Ricardo

        Hey Sam, this is an AB conversation CCCCCC your way out of it you racist. Look I am 90% sure this is my neighbor in a 4 plex using a fake name. His real name is Max but all the neighbors call him Maxsturbator … long story …. If Ed is not Max, I am really really sorry but 90% positive with like 90% margin of error

Comments are closed.