Democratic Hiring Process
The primary rationale for our labor center is to sustain a hiring process that is fair and dignified for workers, their employers, and the community. Daily, we negotiate living wages, rest breaks, and work agreements between workers and employers. Through the hiring process, workers of all ages have a chance to work and earn a living wage. On any day, 40 to 130 workers sign up to be hired through the center. Depending on the season, zero to 50 workers are hired each day. In 2007, we began organizing with domestic workers, primarily migrant women who work as nannies, house cleaners, and caregivers. Today, the women are organized and have their own hiring process and a cleaning collective.
Civic Engagement and Leadership Development
Centro Laboral de Graton's advocacy efforts include leadership development opportunities for workers. Day laborers and domestic workers participate in every aspect of our organization. Workers participate in press conferences, public hearings, and provide interviews to media sources. Workers participate in community service projects, such as tree planting and creek clean up to express their good will and generate positive exposure. Workers are invested in framing their own public image. Participating in community projects highlights the positive role of day laborers in our community. Workers tell us that while the equitable job distribution and services at the center are crucial, building awareness and respect for the groups is equally important.
Because of the conditions in which they live, day laborers are at risk for poor nutrition, alcoholism, and substance abuse (Castañeda, 2008). Workers often have undetected conditions such as TB and dental problems (Castañeda, 2008). Health access, education, rights, and care at CLG is comprehensive. CLG collaborates with the West County Health Centers, Inc (WCHC) and Santa Rosa Community Health Centers (SRCHC) to provide medical care and outreach to day laborers. WCHC operates an outreach clinic in the worker center one morning a week. A bilingual Physician Assistant examines workers, provides referrals and prescribes treatment and medication. SRCHC reserves two appointments per week for day laborers to ensure that the most vulnerable people can receive care and bypass the lengthy wait list. This partnership is made possible by a grant from the California Family Health Council. WCHC & SRCHC share our goal of enrolling workers in a medical home, a clinic that houses the patient’s medical history and data and can eliminate the need for emergency room visits. We help day laborers and domestic workers overcome barriers by providing support to keep appointments and follow up with treatment. Finally, a new cadre of workers receives training every other spring to serve as health promoters. These health activities have lasting community and individual health benefits.
The majority of day laborers have less than six years of formal education (Valenzuela, 2000). Before the hiring system and worker center were established, volunteers organized English classes on Saturday mornings in order to build trusting relationships and learn about the lives and issues impacting workers. English classes continue to be an integral part of our daily programming. Regular volunteer teachers offer ESL classes at multiple levels to support workers’ goals of learning English.
Occupational Health and Safety
Day laborers routinely engage in occupations that are high risk for injury, such as construction, landscaping, household moving, warehousing, and janitorial work (Neitzel & Seixas, 2005). In 2006, CLG initiated our work on occupational health and safety. Approximately 15-30 workers participate in at least two trainings per month on health and safety topics. We currently have funding from the National Day Labor Organizing Network to do this. CLG collaborates with several community agencies and volunteers, including worker volunteers to lead the informational sessions. Job skills workshops are presented, with an emphasis on working safely. Job skills topics range from pruning grape vines, apple trees, fruit trees and roses; operation of lawn mowers and other small machinery; basic carpentry, painting, excavation skills; as well as banking and filling out job applications.