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Community News: Southwest

LADERA HEIGHTS : Proposed Limits on Laborers Protested

January 30, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

In yet another chapter in the conflict between day laborers and residents, a group of civil rights advocates gathered last week at a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting to protest a proposal that would prohibit day laborers from soliciting work on public streets and in private parking lots.

About two dozen day laborers, members of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other groups staged the demonstration Tuesday, saying that the proposed ordinance is racist and unconstitutional. After the demonstration, the board postponed a vote on the ordinance for 45 days.

"These workers are engaged in speech protected by the 1st Amendment," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU. "They have a right to solicit work."

Residents have complained for years about day laborers loitering near the HomeBase home improvement store at Slauson and Fairfax avenues. Last year, Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, the board's chairwoman and newest member whose area includes Ladera Heights, took action. She wrote a measure that would ban day laborers from soliciting work in public places and privately owned parking lots. Violation of the measure could result in $1,000 in fines and imprisonment for workers and their employers.

It was immediately assailed by civil rights advocates, who charged that the area's mostly affluent homeowners were trying to drive the mostly poor Latinos out.

"All labor is dignity," said Joe Hicks, executive director of the SCLC. "Why are we trying to criminalize the activities of people who are simply offering themselves for a full day's work?"

This is the second time the supervisors have postponed voting on the measure to allow for mediation. Talks that started two months ago stagnated and need more time to progress, said Vicki Pipkin, a Burke spokeswoman.

Pipkin said some supervisors suggested after the demonstration that a national mediating group be brought in. "Some homeowners felt that the day laborers weren't really speaking for themselves," she said. "We're going to try get a fresh start."

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