Ten years in the making, a center for Hispanic day laborers will finally open this weekend in Carrboro.
“We’re really, really excited,” said Natalia Lenis, coordinator of the Carrboro-Chapel Hill office of El Centro Hispano, “ because this is the first center for employment created in the south.”
El Centro will soon share its space at 201 W. Weaver St. in Carrboro with the Center for Employment and Leadership, will celebrates its grand opening on Sunday, April 26 at 3 p.m.
The event will begin with a symbolic march to the center, beginning at the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie roads, where a typical day for a day laborer begins at around 6 a.m.
“They’re standing in that corner to wait,” said Lenis. “Whatever the weather condition is, they will be there. So, there’s no bathroom for them.
“Basically, they’re exposed to a lot of danger, because they don’t know the person who is picking them up. They’re just jumping in that car, and going to work.”
As a result, workers sometimes get dropped off in the middle of nowhere, and employers are not always scrupulous about paying for work.
Now, the center will have records of agreements between employers and their workers.
“So, if something like unpaid wages happens, at least we’ll be able to have the information, call them up and say, like, ‘Hey, you told us that you were going to pay him $15 an hour. What happened?’” said Lenis.
Experiences for day laborers are not all bad, of course. Some are lucky enough to get a call from an employer beforehand, if they’re had good prior experiences together.
Many times, though, the workers that get to the employer’s car first are the ones that end up with the job that day.
Lenis pointed out that this arrangement is not always beneficial to employers looking for specific skills from their temporary workers.
She said the new center will match up employers with the right help.
“We have contractors for construction, plumbing, landscaping – those are the main ones,” said Lenis.
In addition, the center will help individuals seeking assistance with tasks such as moving, yard work, and painting.
Employers will benefit from the added assurance of the center’s membership requirement for workers. Workers will be provided with a manual of regulations, and an evaluation process will be in place for employers and employees.
The concept for a center that acts as a liaison between employers and day laborers was proposed in the Town of Carrboro about 10 years ago.
Seven years ago, Orange County Justice United joined the effort, and a task force was created. El Centro was asked to join, upon arriving in Carrboro five years ago.
El Centro Hispano has counted around 50 day laborers in the area, and is still trying to access the number of domestic workers.
Lenis said she’s also excited for the opportunities the new center creates for domestic workers in the near future.
“So it’s not only for the day laborers who stand in Carrboro,” said Lenis. “It’s basically for everyone in this community who’s looking for work, or for those employers who are looking for workers that can help out, either with doing work in the house, or taking them to a construction site.”
She concedes that day laborers are not going to disappear from the corner on April 27.
An El Centro task force will continue the work of distributing fliers at the corner, advising workers of their rights, and employers of the advantages of working with the center.
For more information on the Center for Employment and Leadership, you can call 919-945-0136.
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