Archive for September 20, 2009

Day Laborers Compete for Few Jobs

Excerpt from

To be first in line, men arrive at 4 a.m. with hard hats in hand. Most people are still asleep.

An hour later, about a dozen men stand on a corner. Some are slumped against a building, hiding their eyes under caps as they try to get some sleep. Others stand in a circle, quietly trading stories. Cigarette smoke fills the air and headlights from passing semi trucks pierce through the pitch-black morning.

They all want the same thing: a job. Many will be disappointed.

Dressed in orange vests and steel-toed boots, they wait outside Labor Ready on Talleyrand Avenue, one of many temporary labor pools across Jacksonville. These are desperate job-seekers.

And there are more of them now, competing for fewer jobs.

The recession has hit hardest in construction work, drying up the number of day-labor jobs. Even laid-off, white-collar workers are vying for a few hours at a construction site.

Most men say they wait every day. They are sent to jobs only once or twice a week. Sometimes it’s only for four hours of minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, which means less than $30 a week.

“When you wait and wait and you’re told that there’s no work for the day, it’s a bad feeling,” says 20-year-old Demarco French of Jacksonville. “It robs you of hope.”

“I make $30 a week. Now you tell me how that’s going to pay rent. How I’m going to eat? I’m not getting by. I’m struggling.”

The only way to get by on earnings of $30 a week is to commit crimes.

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