Mexican Consulate Comes to Garland to Counsel Day Laborers

Mark Graham
Workers, most of them immigrants from Mexico, wait at the Garland Day Labor Center for contractors to pick them up.

Late last year, when members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps visited the Garland Day Labor Center with binoculars and videocameras, they triggered a small labor movement that continued this week with a visit from the Mexican Consulate. As we chronicled in the paper version of Unfair Park last December, the workers who congregate each morning to wait for work at the center formed a union -- a pretty ballsy move for a group of largely undocumented folks. Their goals are to start a community center, set minimum hourly wages for various trades and help workers who get stiffed by employers or suffer other abuses.

They were joined on Monday by legal advisors from the Mexican Consulate, who visited the center to give advice, reported La Estrella, the Spanish-language daily. The advisors told the workers to make sure to write down the name, contact number and license plate number of each contractor they work with and give the information to their families. Otherwise, it's nearly impossible for the consulate to intervene when there are problems.

"Each morning, people come in to complain of labor problems, and most often they're people who have done jobs and not gotten paid," consulate spokesman Eduardo Rea tells Unfair Park.

Recently, an 18-year-old who left for work with a contractor disappeared, terrifying his family, Rea says. Three days later, he called to say he'd been picked up in a truck and had somehow been deposited near the border and was soon to be deported.

We decided to visit various sites where immigrants wait for construction work and give them information about their rights," Rea says. "We told them, 'Please, when you get into a truck, note the plate information, get the address of the house.' It's very important, because when they complain and say something happened in North Texas, we can't help them. For their security they have to take certain precautions."

The visit wasn't the only notable event at the Garland center in the past week. Four days earlier, La Estrella reported that eight workers were arrested for waiting for contractors across the street near the Fina Station. It's against city law to wait on a street or corner that's not designated for the purpose of finding work, which was the whole point of building the city-run labor center. The consulate can't do much about that, but maybe now the workers will take care to line up where they won't get nabbed by police. --Megan Feldman

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky