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From: Renee Saucedo renee@lrcl.org
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2007

Dear Editor,

SHAME ON MAYOR Gavin Newsom for negotiating a secret deal with Home Depot and undermining the rights of day laborers.

Currently, Mayor Newsom's office is negotiating with Home Depot to set up a day laborer site near the soon-to-be-built store on Bayshore Blvd. He says that he is acting on complaints about day laborers. Moreover, his plan would not interfere with the existing Day Labor Program's funding.

Mayor Newsom never consulted with the San Francisco Day Labor Program, located on Cesar Chavez St., within a mile from the proposed site, or with other day laborer service providers, or with day laborers, about his plan.

What is wrong with the City establishing this second day labor program in this manner?

First, by partnering with Home Depot in the establishment of a new site, the City is simply carrying out a plan to forcibly remove the presence of day laborers from public street corners. During Planning Commission hearings, when Home Depot applied for the necessary permits, corporate representatives expressed that the store would not tolerate day laborers standing in front of their store. The company stated it would call police and have the workers forcibly removed.

What is the Mayorıs Office currently negotiating with Home Depot?the forced removal, or arrest, of day laborers who choose to stand in front of the new Home Depot to wait for potential employers instead of going to the new day laborer site? This policy is not only illegal, but it would devastatingly impact the day laborers' opportunities to find work. U.S. Courts have already decided that day laborers have a First Amendment right to stand on public sidewalks to wait for potential employers. Furthermore, day laborers have always desired to have access to both the workers' center and the corners, so they may decide how to seek work on any given day. No workers center in the country is able to provide all the jobs necessary that would keep the workers from having to look for work on their own. In San Francisco, for example, the Day Labor Program would have to provide over 500 jobs per day, a task that even the privately-owned companies like Labor Ready can't fulfill (On average, the SF Day Labor Program sends 20 day laborers out to work, which matches the rate of job referrals for most day laborer centers in the country). If they are unable to get work through the Day Labor Program on any give day, day laborers must have the option of looking for work on public street corners without being criminalized.

Second, the Mayor has taken actions to open a new day laborer site without even consulting with those groups and individuals who work with this population every day, particularly San Franciscoıs established day laborer center.

The SF Day Labor Program provides vital services to hundreds of day laborers and domestic workers each day, including job referrals, job training, legal services, on-site medical clinic, English classes, food distribution, etc. The Program works in collaboration with various entities, including the San Francisco Labor Council, the National Day Labor Organizing Network, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and numerous community-based partners in serving the needs of the day laborer community.

And La Raza Centro Legal, the Mission non-profit that manages the Program, reports to the City every single job that is referred, every single worker that is served. Neither the City nor the Mayor have ever complained about the Program's services.

But the City has consistently for years complained about the SF Day Labor Programıs unconditional support of day laborers, namely their right to stand on street corners to wait for employers. The SF Day Labor Program has historically supported the workers against police harassment, "nimby" attacks, and efforts to remove them from established congregating sights. Through leadership development, organizing campaigns, and other empowerment strategies, the Program facilitates day laborers asserting their rights themselves. This was why the City tried in previous years to cut La Raza Centro Legal's funding to run the SF Day Labor Program.

Generally, the creation of new day laborer centers that genuinely serve the needs of the workers are positive and are to be supported. If the new Home Depot store will become a new site for day laborers to find work, then we should assist the workers with services. But a center created through secret deals with big corporations must not be tolerated, especially if the main intent is to remove day laborers from public street corners. If this plan continues, it affirms where Mayor Newsom stands?not on the side of Latino, immigrant workers, but with "nimby" neighbors and corporate interests trying to exclude day laborers from our neighborhoods.

Renee Saucedo is the Community Empowerment Coordinator at the San Francisco Day Labor Program.

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