Monday morning in Dallas, if you'd gotten up without a permanent job and gone out seeking a couple of hours of physical labor to make whatever ends meet you could, you might have headed to 7-Eleven at Marsalis Avenue and Eighth Street in Dallas or the closed Sam's Club on Park Lane in North Dallas. Once there, if you managed to get a job for the day, you might get four or five hours of work.
The city estimates that Dallas day laborers picked up at current, unregulated sites make about $10 an hour. Workers have little protection from exploitation or wage theft, unless they head to one of the day labor centers available in the suburbs.
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Both Plano and Garland have day labor centers to connect workers with contractors. Both locations are near DART-rail stations. The Garland center allows for outside services like ESL-education and HIV testing, but doesn't interfere with the workers contractors select. The Plano center doesn't allow outside services and connects workers to contractors by lottery. Dallas city staff is looking at both models, in addition to organizing at current sites, as a way forward out of the ad-hoc system currently prevalent in the city.
The project is still in its embryonic stage, but Dallas City Council members wholeheartedly supported it Monday, even if they seemed a little confused at times.
"You'll still probably have people out in the streets," Sheffie Kadane said, apparently believing that the day-labor facilities are some kind of work camp for the homeless, "but I support this."
Philip Kingston emphasized the importance of Dallas providing outside services, like ESL to day laborers, while Jerry Allen lauded the potential economic impact of organizing a disorganized economy. He urged city staff to take whatever steps necessary to develop a workable model for organized day labor in Dallas.