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Law Prohibits Hiring Workers in the Street

Pasadena will ticket drivers who stop to employ day laborers. A critic calls plan unwise.

June 11, 2003|Tina Daunt | Times Staff Writer

The Pasadena City Council has agreed to ban drivers from stopping in the street to hire day laborers.

The ordinance is considered a new version of similar laws elsewhere that have attempted to make it illegal for laborers, many of them immigrants, to find work on public streets. Courts have recently found some of those efforts unconstitutional because they sought to limit a person's right to seek employment on public property.

By targeting drivers instead of laborers, Pasadena officials hope to make their ordinance, approved Monday night, survive legal scrutiny.

"It was designed to be as narrowly tailored as possible to address the safety issues," said City Atty. Michele Beal Bagneris.

She added that the city encourages workers to go to a community job center on Lake Avenue to find short-term employment.

The measure was criticized Tuesday by a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which often has protested efforts by cities to limit the ability of day laborers to find work.

"We think any law that targets day laborers and those who hire them is unwise and constitutionally suspect," said an attorney for the organization, Thomas Saenz. Under the code adopted by the council, drivers will be fined -- as much as $271 for a first offense -- for stopping in posted "no vehicle solicitation" zones, mostly on Villa Street at Fair Oaks Avenue.

"Drivers of motor vehicles in some areas habitually stop in the public right of way and in posted 'No Stopping' zones to solicit potential employees," according to a memo presented to the council Monday. "This practice has encouraged groups ... to gather on the sidewalks and curbs to make themselves available for drivers who solicit them."

According to city staff, residents living near Villa Street say they have witnessed multiple traffic accidents because of the congestion. They also say they have seen workers "littering, fighting, drug-dealing, gambling, blocking the sidewalk and loitering on the lawns of property owners."

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