Monday, January 8, 2007

Day Laborer Pick Up Next Right

I've been wondering about the dozens of guys who hang out on the corner every morning. I drive along the main street near my place and hook a right to get to the freeway. At this corner where I turn on my way to work in the mornings, there are clusters of Mexican men hanging out. They've added sweatshirts recently as it has gotten chillier, as some days they stand there for hours. It doesn't appear to be a bunch of illegals as it's totally out in the open, and this morning, there were 4 or 5 professional highway-grade signs set up, directing people to a little pull in between the corner and the freeway saying "Day Laborer Pick Up Next Right."

But I have questions because I'd never seen this before except on TV.

  • Do these people get picked up by contractors on a regular basis, or is it always a crap shoot?
  • Isn't it scary to just get in the truck of whomever comes by? (I guess that's why there are no women doing this.)
  • What kind of work do they do?
  • How do they determine the pay rate?
  • Do they get paid more if they're picked up first?
  • Do they pay taxes?
  • Do these guys speak English?
  • Could I get them to help me renovate? ('Cuz it's about me.)
  • How early do they get there? They seem to be gone by noon, so do they all get hired, or do they have a backup job?
  • What's the average wait time?
  • I haven't picked out any regulars yet, how long do these men work the corner before landing a regular job?
  • If they land a regular job, is it a contract job that will spit them back on to the corner after a while?
  • What kind of life to do they have? What are their expenses? What do they do in their off time? One of the condos I looked into buying was a very spartan 2 bedroom. The master had 2 bunkbeds, the air was close, and my realtor mentioned that it was most likely shared by immigrants while the owners lived with their baby in the smaller room. Is that the standard housing, or do these guys earn enough to have a regular apartment?

I may never know the answers to these questions. But I ask them to myself a lot.


Janet W. said...

Erika, I have often thought about this ... there are many day labourers standing around near the Canal region of San Rafael. I will think over your quesions during the day ... very thought provoking!

Anonymous said...

I've never seen such a thing here except the odd time in Toronto where you'd see "will work for food"... or something of the sort from a street person.

Unless there's a farmer's coop or such where anyone goes to and picks up their day help??

Here we have to house the off-shore help.

andrea said...

Hey Erika!

I can't be sure exactly about your guys, but I'll tell you how we do it (in a mucho poquito farm town)I deleted all but the last words for the sake of time...and I hope you really did want some answers and these weren't rhetorical :)

1.)...always a crap shoot? It's steady in a season, crap shoot off season. But I think for you in CA there is very little "off-season" for construction and landscape which is most likely what they are doing in that area

2.)...comes by? Yes, but there is word of mouth for these guys...and the ppl who pick up are most always regulars so they have some level of trust.

3.)...they do? see answer above

4.) rate? usually they take what they get...very little haggling, but they will ask and not get on if they don't give a good rate

5.)...they're picked up first? no it's almost entirely random chance who goes first. But you want to work early before it gets hot!

6.)...taxes?I don't think they would make enough to get into an applicable tax bracket...most of our do however get EIC. No. Comment.

7. & 8.)...speak English? never assume either way. but to answer your next question...they want big jobs all day at least so if you have a big project for them to work on probably...find out the rate going in the area and take a Spanish speaker to make sure you get all the details sorted out. They may think you meant 200 for a day's work whether they finish or not...and you meant 200 for a compelted make sure you have a translator

9. & 10.)...get there? I would say before 7am. Most would leave at 10ish if they don't get a job, no one is going to START a job that late so they go home and try again the next day.

11.) It could take up to a week, but if work is good, then it doesn't take long at all. Here for construction we have a huge demand, so I would say no wait time here.

If they land a regular job, is it a contract job that will spit them back on to the corner after a while? YES!

Random last questions
Many times here you have a bunch of men living together very sparsely. They prefer to be paid in cash but we pay by check only...which they go cash send most of it back to Mexico. They live on very little.