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VALLEY PERSPECTIVE : Give Them a Chance, and a Site

March 17, 1994

The subject of day laborers inspires angry feelings and loud debate. That has been the case recently in Ladera Heights, north of Inglewood, where residents sought to ban gatherings of the job seekers. Now, fortunately, County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke and her colleagues have withdrawn a plan that would have banned curbside job solicitation in some commercial parking lots and near homes, schools, playgrounds and churches in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, Ladera Heights among them. She has come up with a much better idea.

Burke's alternative--supported by all except Supervisor Gloria Molina--allows laborers to seek work on the sidewalks where they usually congregate; however, in commercial parking lots, where merchants sometimes object to the laborers' presence, they could be barred from most of the space if owners put aside a spot where people could look for work and post signs against the activity elsewhere. Laborers caught violating the restrictions would get up to six months in jail and be fined as such as $1,000.

This ordinance is not the final word on day labor, but it is preferable to the earlier measure. However, we think that local government is best engaged in this issue when it goes even further and helps to choose central hiring locations. That's better than having contractors cruising streets looking for workers, and preferable to job seekers scattered hither and yon, in potentially disruptive fashion.

L.A. City Councilman Joel Wachs has been considering the centralized approach at a site in Van Nuys. Council member Laura Chick has entertained the same idea for her district. Laguna Beach has operated an outdoor hiring site in an industrial area on Laguna Canyon Road for several years. A more comprehensive approach can be found in Orange, Brea and Costa Mesa, where hiring halls also offer English classes and other services.

Such approaches minimize the potentially negative impact of crowds forming in scattered locations, and they also acknowledge that the laborers often are performing brutally menial--although vitally needed--tasks at the lowest of wages, jobs that not many people want.

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