If you drive down NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd anytime this weekend, you may notice a large tent and port-a-potties where you used to see parked cars. These amenities are part of Portland’s new day labor hire site — a city-funded project managed by Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project. The site was set up as an alternative to the current, informal system where workers gather on street corners or near home improvement stores, hoping to be picked up for a day’s work. According to Voz, the site will offer workers protection from employers who might try to scam them out of payment or otherwise mistreat them. They say it will also give employers more reliable access to potential employees. The site is considered controversial because the staff will not be checking the immigration status of the patrons who use their resources to find work.
Portland joins about 65 other cities in the nation that have designated places for employers to meet up with workers seeking day labor. National groups have been a part of the process as both supporters and detractors. The Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network has been working closely with Voz to set up the site, while a nonprofit, conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch headquartered in Washington DC, has made it known that they disapprove of the project. Judicial Watch has sued towns such as Laguna Beach, California and Herndon, Virginia on behalf of citizens who don’t want their tax money to support day laborers, many of whom they believe are in the country illegally. Judicial Watch has not filed suit against the city of Portland, but the group did send a strongly-worded letter to Mayor Tom Potter last summer contesting the legality of the proposed day labor site.
How will Portland’s day labor site affect you? Are you a day laborer or a contractor who hires day laborers? Is the site going to be located near your business? Is this the best way to handle the issue of day laborers on Portland’s streets?
- Pete Springer: Reporter for OPB News
- Carmen Rubio: Director of Community Affairs for the the Portland Mayor’s office
- Ernie Richmond: Assistant manager and technician at Ed?s Auto Lectric
- Tom Fitton: President of Judicial Watch
- Liz Jones: Reporter for KUOW in Seattle
- TBA: Employer of day laborers