REDONDO BEACH — Early this year, the city tried a new tactic to satisfy merchants who complained that day laborers hanging around an Artesia Boulevard intersection were hurting their businesses.
To discourage employers from picking up the men, the City Council banned stopping or parking along Artesia from 6 to 9 a.m.
But nobody seems happy with the solution. The laborers say the city is picking on them because of a few bad apples; a resident has sued the city, charging that it is undermining the laborers' right to work; and merchants say the ordinance has not discouraged employers or laborers, but has simply spread the problem over a longer stretch of Artesia.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Warren Deering rejected a request by resident Jim Isaac for a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the ordinance. A hearing on Isaac's request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for May 8.
Right to Work Curbed
Anthony Mischel, the attorney from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles who filed Isaac's lawsuit against the ordinance, said the ordinance is "a clear infringement of the rights of the day laborers to be employed."
At the hearing April 10 on the request for a restraining order, the city argued that the ordinance is a valid attempt at traffic control, opening a new lane of traffic on Artesia. Mischel countered that the lane will not be cleared because business people and their employees can get permits exempting them from the restrictions.
He also noted that at three City Council hearings on the ordinance, which was approved in January, only problems with the day laborers--not traffic--were discussed.
City Atty. Gordon Phillips declined to comment because of the pending lawsuit and the fact that he has not yet met with the City Council to discuss the matter. No council members could be reached for comment.
Bad for Business
The council's action came after merchants in the area complained that the often scruffy laborers--many of whom are illegal aliens, police say--urinated in public, harassed passers-by and created an eyesore that hurt their businesses.
On most mornings, between 30 and 50 men congregate along Artesia Boulevard hoping to be hired for the day by building contractors and others who stop at the curb, offer jobs and then drive away with new workers.
To discourage the employers, the council banned parking or stopping along the busy commercial strip between Hawthorne and Aviation boulevards between 6 and 9 a.m., seven days a week.
Redondo Beach Police Chief Roger Moulton said the effect of the ordinance cannot be measured yet because enforcement began only Tuesday. The department first had to establish a permit-parking system for the shopkeepers and their employees. Routine morning motorcycle patrols will enforce the ordinance.
Workers Spread Out
But even without enforcement, the ordinance has had an impact on the workers. Signs that ban stopping during early-morning hours were posted March 25. Since then the workers have been trying to circumvent them by clustering in small groups over a longer distance so stops by employers will be quicker and less conspicuous.
That put some of the workers in front of Gabriel Salnan's shoe-repair shop.
"I don't like it one bit," Salnan said. "Once they were just at Artesia and Rindge, but now they're all over. I get customers very early in the morning, and that's when those guys are around. Business has been bad.
"I can understand why they are there. They are poor people who want to work. But the police and immigration department should crack down on them instead of worrying about the people who stop to hire them."
Another merchant, who wished not to be identified for fear of harassment from the workers, said her business has also been hurt now that the workers are scattered farther along the boulevard. And a merchant at Artesia and Rindge, who also did not want to be identified, said the ordinance has not prevented employers from pulling into her parking lot to hire the laborers.
Some of the workers this week said they are aware of the lawsuit, support it and believe that the city is unfairly harassing all of them when any trouble is caused by a small minority.
One of the laborers, who gave his name only as Hector, said the workers are there to find jobs, not to be a nuisance. He said he sends much of the money he earns to support his family in El Salvador. If the employers stop coming to Artesia Boulevard, he said, the workers will just gather in another part of the city or go elsewhere.
He said contractors in the Redondo Beach area pay more than those who hire at day-labor sites in Los Angeles, which is why workers from as far away as East Los Angeles and Orange County come to the South Bay for work.