Sweating out day labor
Arizona Republic
Feb. 12, 2005


Chandler's day labor center is just south of the city's heart, in a part of town that is not featured on tourism brochures. But it's a part of town that speaks to the city's rich history, where those who worked to build a farming community out of raw desert lived and sweated and prevailed.

Many of the signs are en espaņol in deference to the Hispanic community. But the sign advertising the Day Labor Center is in English, because it is vitally important to reach the Anglo business owners who drive Arizona Avenue every day seeking workers.

The question of how to match workers to temporary jobs is not unique to our community. But Chandler took the lead in the Valley in trying a privately funded solution. In May 2003, the center opened at Saragosa Street and Arizona Avenue, behind the Light and Life Free Methodist Church.

Some say that too many laborers still line the avenue rather than waiting for jobs under the ramadas at the center.

The reasons for this are debated, of course.

Some workers may not know of the center; others may not trust it. Some contractors may prefer to hire men off the street rather than having to hire them through the center and thus officially on the rolls.

And a big unknown now is, will Proposition 200 further frighten workers from going to any place that seems official?

As with most societal issues, the question of how best to provide employment for day laborers is complex. In Chandler, it comes up against the desire by downtown business owners to revitalize the city's heart.

When Arizona Avenue connects with the Santan Freeway this summer, it will become an artery drawing people north to downtown. Those drivers will pass the Day Labor Center as well as the lines of workers along the avenue. It is not an image the city wants to advertise.

The reality is, drivers also will pass other older businesses, none as spruced up as the downtown square.

The solution, like the problem, must be holistic. We need to look for ways to improve the older part of the city, meet the needs of those who want to work and discourage businesspeople from hiring workers off the street.