June 23, 2006

Vista proposes to regulate hiring of day laborers

By Martha Sarabia

VISTA — With the city council chambers full of anxious speakers, Vista city council officials discussed a proposed ordinance that would regulate the hiring of day laborers in the North County city.

If it is approved, the ordinance would require the employers of the day laborers looking for jobs out in the streets to register with the city and learn about labor law during the process.

“The ordinance deals strictly with the hiring process to ensure that they’re treated fairly,” said City Attorney Darold Pieper.

The registration certificate issued to the employers would be free of charge and valid for one year. Employers would then be required to show their certificate to the day laborers during the hiring process and give them a term sheet outlining the proposed employment including the address of employer, rate of pay, location of worksite, and how the worker will be transported to and from that location.

Day Laborers gather every day at the corner of S. Santa Fe Ave. and Escondido Ave. hoping to find a job. Photo by Martha Sarabia.

City officials believe that this ordinance will alleviate the abuses committed against the day laborers, such as not getting paid after the end of the workday or getting paid a lot less than the minimum wage, as some nationwide studies have found.

However, many of the Vista residents present at the city council meeting expressed their disapproval to the passage of the ordinance especially because it is based on findings of national studies rather than on a local analysis of the day laborers of the area.

“We all know that if this ordinance is not really just to protect the day laborers… This ordinance is about singling out a class of people. That I find disturbing,” said Tina Jillings.

Among the speakers addressing the city council was a day laborer who identified himself as Andres from Tlaxcala, Mexico.

Andres said in Spanish, “I would want you to find us an area for us to look for work, a place with drinking water.”

He added that the ordinance would not help the current situation of day laborers like him.

Members of pro-immigrant rights and the Minuteman Project also gave their point of view about the ordinance.

Claudia Smith from the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation said there is a greater need for the day laborers to have drinking water, a toilet and a bench with a shade rather than a law to regulate their hiring.

She added that the day laborers have developed their own ways to protect themselves such as writing down the license plates of the employers as well as the address of the locations they are taken to work.

“I don’t think it should be a concern to our city,” said Mary Louis Cliff.

“If they are illegal, they shouldn’t be hired,” said an angry Vista resident.

“It’s yet another slap in the face for the Hispanic community in Vista,” said Richard Eiden.

Longtime Vista resident John Herrera asked for a better solution from the city council. “My forefathers were here before the U.S. was even created. What can we do to improve this situation?,” asked Herrera.

Vista resident for more than 20 years Alejandro Sanchez said, “This is not a new problem. It’s been here for many generations… Nothing is getting better here, everything is worse.”

Despite hearing these and many more similar comments for about two hours, city officials approved the ordinance unanimously while sharing their thoughts with the attendees.

“We need day laborers. We do need this help,” said City Councilman Frank Lopez after expressing his approval for the ordinance.

Mayor Morris Vance added, “We do have an obligation to provide a safe place for those seeking employment.”

Vance also asked to seek a partnership with an organization to provide a place with facilities such as drinking water and a restroom for the day laborers to use while looking for a job.

For the day laborers waiting for a job in the corner of S. Santa Fe and Escondido Ave., their main priority is to find a job every day and believe that the ordinance will keep prospective employers away.

“It’s going to work for those who are documented but not for those who are not,” said one of the day laborers about the ordinance.

“The solution is for each one of us to find work,” said another day laborer, who like his colleague asked not to be named.

“The majority of us who are here come to work,” said Octaviano Huerta, another day laborer, referring to the charges that the area where they gather has become a place for them to hang out and drink.

The second reading of the proposed ordinance will take place at 5:30 p.m. during the June 27 city council meeting. Human rights groups are organizing a demonstration that same day starting at 4:30 p.m. in the corner of S. Santa Fe Ave. and Escondido Ave. The organizers want to form a human chain to walk to the Vista City Hall to show their disapproval to the passing of the ordinance.

If it is approved for a second time, the ordinance will become law by July 28, 30 days after the second reading, and those who do not obey the law would face a $1,000 fine and even a possible six-month jail sentence.

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