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Day Laborer Ordinance Receives Approval

Published on CBS2.com

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? The Los Angeles City Council has approved an ordinance that could be used to require home improvement stores to provide shelter, patient water and bathrooms for day laborers looking for work.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously, says that big box stores like Home Depot built in the future receive “conditional-use” permits, which would allow city officials to impose the restrictions.

Councilman Bernard Parks who first proposed the ordinance four years ago says it is the first move of many to try to improve conditions for such workers.

A group of day laborers in the council chambers cheered the decision.
Home Depot spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher expressed her company’s
disappointment, saying the issue is more “complicated than placing mandates on businesses.” 



L.A. adopts day laborer rules for home improvement stores

The law could require such firms as Home Depot and Lowe’s to build day-labor centers with shelter, drinking water, ed bathrooms and trash cans at new stores. Each site will be evaluated independently.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 14, 2008

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday requiring certain home improvement stores to develop plans for dealing with day laborers who congregate nearby in search of jobs.

The ordinance mandates that proposed big-box stores obtain conditional-use permits, which could then require them to build day-labor centers with shelter, drinking water, bathrooms and trash cans. 

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who first proposed the ordinance four years ago, said that this was just the first phase and that he planned to address existing home improvement stores next. He said the businesses needed to be held accountable for their role in attracting dayworkers.

The vote prompted a standing ovation by dozens of day laborers in the council chambers. The move came after years of debate and negotiations among city leaders, Home Depot officials and dayworker advocates over who should be responsible for public safety and nuisance issues created by workers gathered in parking lots and on sidewalks and street corners.

“This is an important day,” said Councilman Eric Garcetti. “This is an example for the nation.”

Cities nationwide have taken different approaches to the issue. Some have tried to restrict where workers can gather, while others have built hiring halls.

Home Depot officials said they were disappointed by the L.A. council’s vote and said they shouldn’t be solely responsible for addressing the challenges presented by day laborers.

“This is a broader social issue that goes beyond Home Depot, and the solution is certainly more complicated than placing mandates on businesses,” said company spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher.

Nevertheless, senior manager Francisco Uribe pledged to work with city leaders to address the issue.

Dayworker advocates praised the vote, saying the action would make it easier to build worker centers at home improvement stores. There are currently eight centers in the city, each run by a nonprofit organization.

“We welcome it,” said Pablo Alvarado of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “We need it. The workers deserve it.”

Under the ordinance, stores making major renovations or additions could also be required to go through the conditional-use permitting process. The city plans to evaluate each proposed store independently. The city would have to make certain findings, including that there is an existing day laborer population in the vicinity, before requiring a company such as Lowe’s or Home Depot to create “operating standards” to deal with dayworkers.

Stores would not have to make a plan if the city determined that there were not significant numbers of day laborers in the area or that they were not expected to generate increased trash or noise or impede traffic. The ordinance would apply only to stores of 100,000 square feet or more.

The issue is also part of the wider debate over illegal immigration.

Marvin Stewart, president of the Minuteman Project, said the ordinance was another example of how the city condones illegal immigration. “All of this is flying in the face of what the city is supposed to be doing in terms of upholding the law,” Stewart said.

But Abel Valenzuela, a UCLA professor who has conducted extensive research on day laborers and supports the ordinance, said the city can expect to see even more such workers as the economy continues to falter. “This isn’t an immigration issue,” he said. “This is a labor market issue.”




Ordinance Seeks To Encourage Laborer Shelters


Los Angeles Business Journal Staff

Major new home improvement stores opening in the city of Los Angeles may have to build shelters for day laborers under a City Council ordinance approved Wednesday.

Under the ordinance, proposed by Councilmembers Bernard Parks and Ed Reyes and passed unanimously, all proposed home improvement stores of more than 100,000 square feet would have to obtain a conditional use permit from the city. Most Home Depot, Lowe’s and other big box home improvement stores would meet this threshold.

In order to obtain the permit, the developers of the stores would have to present plans to address the issue of day laborers congregating on the property and waiting to be picked up for jobs. These plans could include building shelters for day laborers that include bathroom facilities, though the ordinance does not specifically mandate that such shelters be built.

Several councilmembers said they also wanted to see an ordinance addressing day laborer issues at existing home improvement stores. Parks and Reyes said that issue would be dealt with at a later date, after the current ordinance is implemented.



A better day-labor market

Councilman Parks’ ordinance would improve conditions for neighborhoods and those who seek work outside home-improvement stores.

By Abel Valenzuela Jr.
August 13, 2008

The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to vote today on an ordinance that would help mitigate community concerns over men searching for work at large home improvement stores. This ordinance, which The Times opposed in an Aug. 10 editorial, deserves support as an example of creative and thoughtful local public policy. It is a way to make certain that home improvement stores are a part of the solution by engaging the private sector in a community partnership.

Los Angeles has been at the forefront of effective and innovative policy interventions to address the day-labor practice, including establishing worker centers — gathering places sanctioned by municipalities that allow workers and employers to come together to exchange wages for work.

The proposed ordinance by Councilman Bernard C. Parks would neither mandate that home improvement stores pay for day-labor centers nor place a new burden on taxpayers. It would only require that if a conditional-use permit is awarded to a big-box home improvement store — which would be needed for new construction or major renovation — that a plan be in place to diminish problems that might arise when unemployed men search for jobs near the premises. One of the ways to do this might be to establish a worker center.

For more than 10 years, I’ve researched the day-labor market, including the efficacy of worker centers. My research shows that these centers are the most effective policy response to an otherwise unregulated day-labor economy. Worker centers are low-cost community assets that resolve local tensions while improving worker reliability and increasing worker safety. They help ensure that workplace rights are respected and that employers get the best and most reliable workers. They also involve communities in resolving a local issue that impacts them.

Some of the oldest and most effective worker centers are supported by and located in the city of Los Angeles, including the one outside the Home Depot store in the Cypress Park area north of downtown Los Angeles, and the one located at Exposition and Sawtelle boulevards in West L.A. The methods and programs to create the more than half a dozen worker centers in L.A. have been replicated in other cities because of the host of benefits to both workers and consumers, such as better wages, an orderly hiring process and more reliable workers.

Centers provide a safe place to pick up workers. My studies have found that injuries significantly decrease. And worker centers go a long way toward mitigating some of the misperceptions and tensions that arise over men searching for work in public spaces or nearby industries.

Often such centers have become a focal point in the volatile debate over immigration. But my research on day labor shows that there is an increasing number of U.S.-born citizens participating in this market, not only in Los Angeles but across the nation. This number can be expected to rise as unemployment increases and more workers of different backgrounds search for work through various outlets, including day labor. As our economy continues to falter, alternative employment searches will rise.

Searching for work in open-air street markets has a long history in the United States; think dockworkers, agricultural workers and now construction workers. Its current manifestation speaks directly to our national economy and the demands of employers who prefer temporary workers. As more unemployed workers search for jobs in this manner, policies that promote a fair and inclusive process must be applied to an old problem.

Worker centers are the best approach to alleviating some of the most difficult tensions that can arise when men search for employment at home improvement stores or elsewhere. The goal of resolving community conflicts over day labor requires that all stakeholders, including big-box home improvement stores that attract day laborers, come together and assume their responsibility as community partners.

Parks’ ordinance promotes a creative and humane alternative and ensures that future day-worker centers are created with public, private and nonprofit collaboration.

Abel Valenzuela Jr. is a UCLA professor and the director of the university’s Center for the Study of Urban Poverty.

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Council demands big box stores build day labor shelters

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.”


“Day Laborers and Home Depot”

New York Times Editorial


Published: August 12, health 2008
It’s rare, in the parched landscape of the immigration debate, to come across policies that are simple, realistic and humane. But here is one: The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote on Wednesday on an ordinance requiring big-box home-improvement stores to protect order and safety when day laborers gather in their parking lots looking for work.

The ordinance is primarily aimed at Home Depot, which has 11 stores in Los Angeles and would like to open at least a dozen more. It would require new or renovating stores to have a plan for what to do when the day laborers show up, as they almost always do when Home Depot moves in.

Like any land-use law governing things like parking-lot lighting, curbs and sidewalks, the ordinance treats milling crowds of laborers and idling trucks as an integral fact of Home Depot’s business that should be managed before it becomes chaotic and hazardous. The solution is basic prevention, and could be as simple as setting up an area somewhere on store property with shade, toilets, drinking water and trash cans.

Opposition has erupted from the usual camps. Not all day laborers are undocumented immigrants or even immigrants, but a lot of them are, and the thought of doing anything that would make their lives easier makes some restrictionists howl and clutch their chests. “Lounges for Laborers?” one headline read.

The ordinance is as much for Home Depot’s customers and neighbors as it is for laborers. Nobody likes parking-lot free-for-alls. And lawlessness goes down, not up, when a hiring site imposes order on the ad-hoc day-labor market.

The immigration system, as it is currently malfunctioning, creates lots of problems. Solutions tend to be hugely ambitious and unrealistic — like restrictionists’ calls to lock down a 2,000-mile border and deport millions. Los Angeles’s proposed ordinance to require more orderly hiring sites for day laborers is a small measure that makes a huge amount of sense. We hope the Council approves it.