Contra Costa Times

By Rick Orlov, Daily News

Article Launched: 08/13/2008 02:05:38 PM PDT

In the first step to control day laborers at large home improvement stores, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a measure that could require big box stores to develop centers to provide shelter for the workers.

The measure, which several officials said was aimed at Home Depot and its 11 stores in the city, will apply only to stores of 100,000 square feet or larger that will be built – or if existing stores are undergoing major renovation.

The measure still requires the mayor’s signature. Most city laws take effect 30 days afterward.

But Councilman Bernard Parks, who spearheaded the four-year push for the measure, said he saw it as the first step toward requiring existing stores to create similar centers.

“Phase Two is aimed at those stores,” Parks said. “The city now is spending about $2 million a year for day labor centers – money that could be better used on police or streets or parks in the city.

“We should have the companies pay the costs of these centers.”

A Home Depot spokesman said the company is concerned that all home improvement stores be treated the same and their company not be singled out.

“We aren’t the only home improvement store,” spokesman Francisco Uribe said. “What we wanted was something where all stakeholders could be included and we discuss what is in this measure.”

But Parks and several other council members cited Home Depot as the source of the problem. 

“Let’s be honest here,” Councilman Richard Alarcon said. “The problem we have is with Home Depot – which has not managed a phenomena essentially created by their marketing and targeting of customers that need day laborers.

“I believe that is essentially what is causing this problem and I would love to take on Home Depot directly on this.”

Uribe said he did not agree with Alarcon’s comments and the firm is trying to work with the city on the issues.

City planning officials said they would be looking at existing nuisance laws to see if the city can require day labor centers in areas where there are problems.

Parks tried to diffuse some of the expected criticism, saying the measure had nothing to do with immigration issues.

“We are not using this to protect illegal immigrants,” Parks said. “This is about providing dignity for workers and controlling a problem we have where there are no shelters.”

Parks said his office has received complaints about workers congregating at sites and having no bathroom facilities or protection from the weather.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl used the debate to se an agreement from Uribe to have discussions about Home Depot providing a day labor center at its store in his district.

“This is the busiest Home Depot in America,” Rosendahl said. “They agreed to have community meetings to discuss what can be done.”

Rosendahl said he also is looking at using other city funds to create more day labor centers in his district.

“The truth is the way the economy is going, we are going to see more day laborers, not less,” Rosendahl said.

“We need to make sure we can provide a place for them where they can maintain their dignity.”

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