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Hiring Day Labor Off Street Outlawed in Redondo Beach

Times Staff Writer

Contractors who hire day laborers off the streets of Redondo Beach will be subject to fines and possible imprisonment under a new ordinance adopted this week.

The measure, which becomes effective Feb. 16, broadens an existing ordinance that only penalized the largely immigrant workers who solicit employment on the street. Now, both employers and workers face fines of up to $1,000 and jail sentences of up to one year.

“By making employers equally liable, the new law gives us a more effective means of dealing with the problem,” said Redondo Beach Police Capt. Ray Graham.

While the new ordinance covers all public streets and sidewalks in the city, its first application is expected to be along Artesia Boulevard in North Redondo, where immigrant workers have gathered for years to await job offers from cruising contractors. Merchants there have complained that customers are scared off when the workers congregate on the sidewalks outside their stores.

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Officials in adjacent Lawndale said Redondo’s new ordinance will only push the job-seekers across the street into their city. Bart Swanson, Lawndale’s public safety supervisor, said he gets “a lot of complaints” from property owners on Lawndale’s side of the border at Inglewood Avenue and Artesia. He said he has seen as many as 120 workers gathered at or near the intersection.

If law enforcement officers from one city show up, the workers often cross the street into the other jurisdiction, Swanson said. “They’ve gotten streetwise,” he said. “It takes a coordinated effort to keep them from just moving back and forth.”

Early last year, Lawndale adopted its own ordinance against soliciting jobs on the street, but it provides no penalties for employers.

Capt. Walter Lanier, commander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lennox substation, which provides law enforcement for Lawndale, agreed that the new Redondo ordinance “could push the problem more into Lawndale.” He said he plans to talk with Lawndale officials about bringing that city’s ordinance in line with Redondo’s.

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“We have worked with the Redondo police in the past and will continue to do so,” Lanier said. He estimated that the cooperative effort led to more than 100 arrests last year, but acknowledged that the job-seekers keep coming back.

“When the numbers build up, we have a sweep operation,” he said. “The activity dies down awhile, then slowly builds up again. As long as employers keep driving over there, the workers are going to continue to show up.”

Graham, the Redondo police captain, said the city will use mailers, posters and other means to advise potential employers that it has become unlawful for them to hire workers who solicit jobs in the street. He said similar ordinances have been tested in the courts and found to be constitutional.

Laborers’ daily struggle, Page 9.

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