Across the country, more than seventy worker centers like the one in Pasadena open their doors each morning to meet community needs and to make sure those looking for work and those looking for workers have a place to meet in a safe and organized environment. Like the day laborer community in general, the centers are known for their big impact often with little resources. In 2013 alone, the small Pasadena storefront with sun streaming in its windows served over 12,000 people in the Los Angeles area.
The best metaphor for the Center were the people in attendance; local officials who have seen how it transforms a community, how it’s offering free access to health services, Bishop Carcaño and other religious figures who see it as part of their mission, day laborers who have been here since its beginnings and others who have arrived for their first day looking for work. As a nod to the day laborers who played a key role in the state-wide coalition to pass the California TRUST Act, the Pasadena police came to explain their readiness to implement the law that went into effect this week. And of course, the day laborer band, Los Jornaleros del Norte, had everyone dancing.Those elements: workers and employers, neighbors and local officials, musicians and supporters, are the ingredients that make a Center and make a community.
“The center is what inclusion looks like. It is immigration reform at the neighborhood level,” added Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
“Together we’ve built something we can all be proud of,” said Luis, a worker who’s been coming to the Center since 2007. He first came to the Center having heard about it from a cousin. After finding his first day of work, he made coming back in between contractors a routine to find work. “This is an office for us. I come most mornings and check in and am proud to provide for my family in an honest way each day.”
The workers started their day-long celebration with a neighborhood clean-up day, sweeping along Lake Avenue and removing spray paint to beautify the neighborhood. The community service is exemplary of the role day laborers play in communities whether it is daily work of cleaning up a neighborhood or the extremes of being part of front-line response in emergencies like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or Superstorm Sandy. For a homeowner who needs a yard cleaned or a neighborhood reeling from disaster, day laborers’ hard work is often the ingredient that makes the difference.
In Pasadena, the Community Job Center has been going for fourteen years and is poised for fourteen more. As the pastor from the Church down the street explained, “When we’re confronted in life with moments that make us ask, ‘what’s next?’ this Center is always a place we can come to help find the answer.”