Randee Haven-O’Donnell remembers advocating for the worker movement in college as one of her most rewarding endeavors.
“You knew that you were supporting emerging populations that would make a difference to the families and the future of our nation,” she said.
As a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Haven-O’Donnell and other local advocates are joining together to support the area’s growing Hispanic day laborer population.
Eager for work and clad in paint-flecked boots indicative of the construction industry, anywhere from 30 to 60 men stand at the corner of Jones Ferry Road and Davie Road each morning.
Come rain, sleet or snow, they wait outside for the glimpse of a potential employer driving around the corner.
Now, many believe it is time for them to move inside.
Molly De Marco, leader of the fair jobs and wages team at Orange County Justice United, said while labor center discussions are still in their early stages, the recent establishment of a relationship with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network is a step in the right direction.
“With at least 30 centers nationwide, they can help us a lot with funding options and making sure we engage workers in every step of the process,” she said.
In addition to providing workers with a safe place to wait for employers and access to restrooms, De Marco said a laborer center could ease tensions with neighborhoods surrounding the current informal pick-up location and even open up new opportunities to female workers.
While no concrete plans have been agreed upon, advocates are currently considering El Centro Hispano in Carrboro Plaza as a potential location for a laborer center.
Mauricio Castro, an organizer with the N.C. Latino Coalition and founder of El Centro Hispano’s predecessor El Centro Latino, said El Centro Hispano presents a promising opportunity because it could offer workers health or education services and access to a bilingual staff.
“Based on the conversations we’ve had with the workers, they are very excited about the possibility not only to look for work but also to be able to develop other skills,” he said. “Many were excited about the possibility of using a computer lab to check their mail, to send messages to their families or to learn how to use the computers.”
Castro also said the discussion of how to staff a center is important because opening a laborer center could allow for the compilation of a database of reliable workers and employers.
“There is less chance for having any mishaps in terms of trust that way, and that’s one of the reasons we think proper education on this issue is important,” he said.
For now, Haven-O’Donnell said discussions between parties will continue throughout July and all interested are welcome.
“I think that getting behind workers and advocating for workers elevating their status is something students at the University can really sink their teeth into,” she said.
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Published June 27, 2011 in Carrboro Board of Aldermen