For day workers, wages are rising and jobs are plentiful

POMONA, California — Dozens of men line up every morning at this east Los Angeles city day labor center and stay there most of the day in the hopes that they’ll be one of the lucky few to get hired. use. Now, from 10 to 15 show up and most have jobs before 9 am

“There’s a lot of work and not a lot of people,” says Javier Garcia, placement coordinator for the Pomona Center for Economic Opportunity, which matches potential employers with day workers. labour.

Day workers, typically men who immigrated to the United States without legal authorization and paid in cash for jobs lasting several hours to days, have long been among those who has the most jobs in America. The researchers suspect there are fewer workers today than there were decades ago, in part because some people have been able to move into more stable work situations.

Because of a shortage of workers in a developing economy, they’re enjoying leverage they’ve never known before. Workers in Pomona say the hourly wage is $25, compared with about $15 before the pandemic. And with opportunities abound for day workers, they are now more selective about the jobs they take.

“Last year was very good. I’m working three to four days in a row,” said Cristobal Gonzalez Camacho, a 58-year-old painter of Mexican descent who had been in the US for about 25 years, before leaving the Pomona center for work. morning. “A year ago it was very slow, a day or so a week, but sometimes nothing.”

Javier Garcia, the employment coordinator of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, records the names of the workers.


Alicia A. Caldwell / The Wall Street Journal

Many daily workers like Mr. Gonzalez are employed by construction sites that need more hands or by individuals or businesses for repair and improvement projects. Recently, however, many have been exploited to work at e-commerce warehouses overwhelmed by supply chain redundancy and high demand before the holiday season. Pomona is located near California’s largest concentration of such warehouses, which receive cargo from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Mario de Leon Diaz, a 41-year-old man from Mexico, said: “There are lots of boxes and trucks.

The legal requirements for hiring day labor vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In general, employers are not required to verify a worker’s immigration status for the day, as it is for payroll workers. Like freelancers, day workers are generally responsible for reporting their income to federal and state governments.

Some people and businesses that hire day workers are reluctant to admit publicly that they hire people who may have entered the country illegally and paid in cash, making it easy for them to avoid paying taxes.

Veronica Dubon, who runs a small alternative and holistic healing business from her home in Pomona, says she usually hires staff from the center to do the cleaning, paying at least $25 an hour. She said she tried recruiting through apps for contract workers but found the jobs were limited and cost $50 per hour or more — more than she could afford.


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“It was a lifesaver for us,” Ms. Dubon said of the day labor center. “Honestly, I don’t know if I could run my business differently.”

In addition to serving as a safe and legal venue for workers to match with employers, day labor centers have long offered social services such as food banks. This year, some have added free vaccines and Covid-19 testing.

Those who work in day labor centers say there are times when they can’t find enough people to fill existing jobs. They say that is partly because many people who worked as day laborers in the past were able to find more stable positions.

Some workers today have become contract workers delivering food and other items, says Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the Brooklyn day labor center’s Justice Project. can set their own hours and work as often as they want.

“They’ve gone from everyday workers on the street corner to everyday workers in apps,” Ms. Guallpa said.

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