When permanent job leads dry up, day labor is often the only way to make ends meet. But finding the work can mean being competitive and getting in line long before many others are even awake.
For five men in the early morning hours, 26th Street and Cliff Avenue is the most uncertain corner in Sioux Falls.
“The sooner you get here the better your chances are of getting out,” day laborer Dave Beers said.
If you can even get out at all. Dave Beers has been lining up outside Labor Ready every morning for years now, just for a chance at a paycheck.
“It could vary and it depends on the weather too. If it rains, most of the outdoor jobs could be cancelled,” Beers said.
But Beers is lucky; he’s on a repeat list at a packaging company that usually takes up to 13 people each day.
“They start at six, so we have to leave at 4:30, a quarter to five because we gotta be out there before 6 a.m. and it’s a 12-hour shift,” Beers said.
“I generally leave my place at 2 a.m. And I walk down here. It’s about a 30-35 minute walk,” day laborer Rodney Doscher said.
That’s why Rodeney Doscher is first in line. He hopes to get set with Beers Friday morning.
“Not knowing if you’re going to get out is only tough if you’re counting on getting out in that particular day because you might need to get money to get rent covered,” Doscher said.
And that’s something all these workers worry about every day. But they say, lately the work has been steady, even though they can’t get a permanent job.
“I have applications out all over town. You can’t get no calls back. So, the only way I can pay bills is come up here and work,” Beers said.
And compete just for that chance.
“I’ve seen as few as 10 and as many as 40-50 people,” Doscher said.
Workers say opportunities are better during the summer than they are when the snow flies. Since many summer jobs are outside, there’s also competition to be indoors out of the elements, which is another reason why they line up so early.