Day laborers struggle

Carlos, 22, stands outside the steel fence of Glendale’s Home Depot on San Fernando Road a few days a week, looking for any job that earns him enough money to feed his family.

Carlos, who declined to give his last name, was laid off from his grocery store job this year due to the recession.

For several months now, Carlos has stood in front of Home Depot, hoping to be picked out of the dozens of men who loiter on the outer sidewalks.

Sometimes, Carlos said he gets lucky and gets chosen for a construction-related job or other handy work. On those days, Carlos is able to take food home to feed his two sisters.

But most days are slow.

“It’s very hard because there is a lot people here looking for jobs, too,” Carlos said.

The influx has led to some laborers secretly soliciting work from customers inside the store.

Glendale Police Officer Blanca Razana enforces a trespassing rule that forbids the day laborers from standing directly in front of the store, or soliciting patrons from inside the store or the parking lot.

Razana arrested four day laborers three weeks ago on suspicion of trespassing after they entered the store to find work. She saw them exiting the store, told them to stop, and they started running.

Razana eventually stopped them.

“Management has asked solicitors to leave the store if they are on the property, said Kathryn Gallagher, a spokeswoman for Home Depot.

The store, she said, prohibits people from loitering and soliciting on its property.

The recession has hit all economic sectors, but day laborers like Carlos have been struck especially hard.

Carlos, a Glendale resident, said he has noticed more people seeking work from the perimeter of the home improvement store, creating more competition for fewer jobs.

“It’s really hard for all of us right now,” he said.

Razana, who regularly patrols the Home Depot lot, said she too has noticed more day laborers lining the perimeter of the store since the economy worsened. And of those, more appear to have Glendale roots.

“In the past, [the laborers] were mostly coming from Los Angeles,” she said. “But now what I am seeing is some of them live in Glendale.”

While more day laborers have accumulated outside the store, she said, the number of trespassers has held relatively steady.

Many day laborers don’t want to go to the city-subsidized labor center across the street, operated by Catholic Charities of Los Angeles Inc., because they don’t like its rules, Razana said.

The lottery process for getting a job creates friction because some laborers arrive to the center before others but don’t get picked for work, she added.

Catholic Charities has been working with the Police Department and Home Depot on issues regarding day laborers, said Moeed Khan, the organization’s regional director.

“We try to reach out and encourage people to use the facility,” he said.

About 70 workers a day use the center, and 50% of them get work through its lottery process, program coordinator Juan Rodriguez said. The number of workers has remained static since the recession, he said.

The center uses the lottery process because it’s calm, effective, and there is no rushing, Rodriguez said.

Day laborers who don’t use the center generally take issue with its ban on negotiating salaries because, he said, they want to be able to settle their own prices.

That aspect of the process is handled by the worker center.

“There are days there is work and days there isn’t,” Raul Martinez said.

He has taken to looking for work outside Home Depot since the recession forced him to sell one of his two hauling trucks.

With his business, Raul Moving and Hauling, on the rocks, the 20-year Glendale resident has had a harder time paying bills, rent and buying food for his family, he said.

“I am on a diet,” Martinez added.


 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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