Representatives of Latino organizations reached an agreement Wednesday with Glendale officials on a gathering site for day laborers, which they hope will put to rest a controversial city proposal that would make it illegal for laborers to solicit work while standing on city property.
Operators of the Catholic Youth Organization center on San Fernando Road offered to let laborers congregate on their property 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily while waiting for contractors to pick them up for work. After that, the organization would let them wait on the sidewalk in front of the center.
The agreement provides the city with an alternative to making it illegal for workers to stand on any public sidewalks and streets while soliciting work.
City officials and labor representatives will begin telling contractors and day laborers this week about the new location, 4322 San Fernando Road, which is a few blocks north of Los Feliz Road in an industrial area. Rick Reyes, human relations ombudsman for Glendale, said he may be able to arrange for a city or church bus to transport workers from their usual meeting place to the Catholic center on the first day the site is open--next Wednesday.
Glendale City Council members directed staff earlier this year to draw up an ordinance barring laborers from gathering on city property while waiting for work. The action came after merchants complained that workers at the corner of Jackson Street and Broadway were disrupting their businesses, creating traffic congestion, littering and harassing women.
The council was expected to adopt the ordinance Aug. 9, but opposition from Latino representatives, day laborers and Glendale residents persuaded council members to postpone the vote until Oct. 4. Wednesday's meeting was the latest of three meetings since the Catholic group made its offer public last Thursday.
After a nearly 2-hour session Wednesday, Jose Galdamez, a representative of the laborers, said through an interpreter that establishing a new site probably will improve work prospects for laborers, which he said have dropped since the controversy erupted last month.
"We really think work will pick up again because the contractors will feel good about the site," Gladamez said.
Sister Victoria Trujillo, administrative director of Catholic Youth and Community Service, which operates the Catholic Youth Organization, said she, too, feels confident the plan will work.
"I think the men have a rough enough deal already," Trujillo said. "Standing on a street all day waiting to be picked up for a day of labor is inhumane and undignified; that's why we're willing to help. What we can do is very small, but at least we're able to do this much."
Galdamez and Trujillo were joined at the meeting by three members of two Los Angeles-based Latino organizations, two city officials, a Salvation Army representative, a laborer, a member of the Alliance For Education and a Glendale businessman.
During the meeting, businessman Rob Smith, owner of Sierra Leasing, offered to pay at least six months of the Catholic center's additional costs, which consist of providing an employee to open the center to laborers.
"We've just got to keep that ordinance from passing," Smith said. He also said that if the city refused to allow laborers to wait for work in front of the center after 9 a.m., he would invite them to his business on Brand Boulevard, where they could wait in a parking lot.
City officials said afterward they could not predict whether the City Council would agree to allow the workers to stand on sidewalks outside the Catholic center after 9 a.m.
Some Issues Resolved
Wednesday's meeting resolved several concerns voiced at the two earlier meetings last Thursday and Friday. Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
During Friday's meeting, representatives of the Catholic center said they could not extend the hours beyond 9 a.m. because it could disrupt day-care and other programs. Members of the Latino rights groups said last week that 9 a.m. was too early to send laborers home.
"My husband is a contractor and it might not be until 10 a.m. that contractors are ready to pick up workers," said Nancy Cervantes, member of the Central American Refugee Center in Los Angeles. "A lot of the workers have told us that 11 a.m. is a good cutoff time."
Jill Esbenshade, also of the refugee center, said last week that workers want to cooperate.
"But we have to realize these are people in a desperate financial situation," Esbenshade said. "If we can get the contractors to get there by 9 a.m., then it will be fine."