Save Time – Hire an Immigrant

If you’ve ever been to Home Depot or Lowe’s, you’ve seen them: crowds of men, mostly Latin American, standing around the lot entrance waving down cars, looking for work.

If you’re like us (and, if you live in Wallingford, you probably aren’t that different), you have enough money to own or rent a place to live, put food on the table and still have some left over for what the economists like to call “discretionary activities”. Further, you probably don’t have enough time to do all the things you need to do and, if you were to draw up a list of ways you’d like to spend your Saturday morning, “dig up a tree root” would be nestled down there with “lance tongue boil” and “wait at the DMV”.

If all the previous is true and you haven’t hired a day laborer, we’ll bet that for a good portion of you, it’s because you’re scared. Not scared in the “is he going to attack me” sense (although that might dodge in the shadows of your thoughts, as well), but in the “what if I do it wrong” sense.

In the interest of helping you regain your Saturday (and, not incidentally, helping some people who could really, really use a fair, paying job), we thought we’d share our experience.

We’ve hired day laborers a few times now: twice outside Home Depot and once at Casa Latina, an organization that organizes and unionizes day laborers. All three times, we’ve had simple tasks: dig a 20′ long, 4′ wide, 2′ deep trench to plant bamboo, dig up an apple tree and dig a new whole to transplant it into, that sort of thing.

The Home Depot experience can be a bit intimidating, which is odd because clearly you’re the one with the power. Still, as you open your car door, dozens of large, rough men surround you waving their hands insisting that you hire them. For our first job, we needed two men, strong backs, no language skills necessary, so we did our quickest eyeball of the men available, found the tallest, strongest looking guy in the lot and asked him to pick one other man to work with. We figured he’d know the men around better than we did and would want someone who could shoulder his share of the work.

The three of us loaded into our car and made small talk as I drove them back to my house. Juan spoke enough English to pass the time: he was from Oaxaca, he’d been in the country for five or six years, he wasn’t sure, just a few in Seattle. I asked him if it was hard to find work, and he said no, that if you were out there early, and ran to the cars when they came, you could usually find it, the guys who didn’t were maybe a bit slower, they didn’t want it as badly. Still, he was six feet tall if he was an inch, and the smaller guys probably had a tougher time of it.

Day Laborers Dig Bamboo TrenchI handed them shovels and a pick, pointed to the area of dirt that I wanted transformed into a hole and went inside to do other things.

I’ve got to say in all honesty that I’ve rarely seen men work as steady and as hard. The man Juan picked to work with him was not as strong as he, and Juan picked up the slack, for sure, but they both swung the pick and lifted the shovel steadily for hours, until clean, sharp lines of trench formed, stretching along the edge of my yard. They took my tape measure and made sure they had gone down the full two feet, then asked what I needed next.

In the end, the work took about 5 hours and I paid them $15 / hour plus a round-up tip. For this first job, I ran up to the Rancho Bravo taco truck and grabbed a couple burritos for them, which they appreciated. I asked them if I could drop them somewhere and they said they could find their own way, but I got them as far as a nearby bus stop, anyway.

For my most recent, project, I decided to try a new source, Casa Latina. Casa Latina was formed 16 years ago as a way to provide protection for the workers: many times, they were finding themselves hired by contractors or even homeowners that would “change their mind” about how (or whether) to pay them, or would subject them to unsafe working conditions.

Casa Latina provides the same basic types of laborers as you’ll find anywhere, but without the chaotic feel of the Home Depot parking lot. Instead, you phone ahead and tell them how many and what type of workers you need, then drive up to their office in the Central District and pick up your guys. (Casa Latina will also drop off workers at your home for $8 / worker). You pay the workers directly, who keep 100% of their earnings. Casa Latina is a non-profit that derives its budget from city, county and private grants.

I was so pleased with the work I got from their worker Alex (from El Salvador, mid-40′s, bitter-sweet to see him smile at my young son, hearing he had lost his boy to an accident years ago), that I called up Jill Rose, the development director of Casa Latina to learn more about how they work.

According to Jill, they have about 70 workers show up each day in the spring season (more in the summer and fall), and they hold a lottery to determine who gets placed when the calls come in. Current average placement is 15 – 20 workers / day.

Workers must attend several classes before they will be placed, including ESL and workplace safety. Classes, including ESL and green gardening techniques, are also offered while the members wait for work each morning. Their current membership is about 80% men and 20% women. Women, who are generally placed in house cleaning positions, have a much higher likelihood of being placed on a given day.

Wages start at $12 / hour, although customers are welcome to pay what they feel is fair (see their pay scale information sheet for more info) and there is a five-hour minimum. Most of the employers are homeowners; professional contractors make up only about 5% of their customers. If you need a particular skill (e.g., carpentry, dry-wall, painting, kitchen work), they maintain lists of people with particular experiences and certifications (and they offer an apprenticeship program for their workers, who are sent off with more experienced members to help them learn a trade).

About 90% of their members are from Mexico, with the remainder coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru and similar areas. They do not require members to provide documentation regarding immigration status.

The procedure for hiring is much as we described earlier: you call their number (206 956-0779) anytime from 7 am – 10:30 am M – F, 7 am – 11:30 am on Saturdays and let them know when, how many and what type of worker you need, then drive down and pick them up. You’ll need to provide any tools or equipment the job requires. You aren’t expected or required to provide food (although we figure well-fed workers are better workers) and they will typically find their own way back (although, again, it would be kind if you could help them to a bus stop).

So, should you use Casa Latina or just go to the Home Depot or Lowe’s?

Casa Latina isn’t open on Sundays, so if that’s when you need workers, your options are limited. Also, you take who you are assigned through Casa Latina, while you can handpick your workers at the “open air” markets.

That said, Casa Latina was certainly less stressful for us, and we’re sure it’s a better experience for the workers (CL provides legal support services for the workers, educates them in workplace safety, provide classes while they wait, etc.) You can also request specific skills through Casa Latina and be sure that someone has checked that the workers actually have that skill. They will also deliver workers to your door, which is a nice convenience.

Finally, we were touched by a comment that Jill made in describing the feelings of the workers towards the organization:

“There’s a real sense of community for the members. They treat Casa Latina with a lot of respect. They want to be hard workers, they want to be seen well. We often get people who call back and ask for the same person, and we encourage that. Sometimes that even leads to permanent employment.

I remember I was here for a couple weeks, and we had a women’s group taking a class in the room next to my office. They were  practicing English phrases like ‘what jobs need doing’, ‘where are supplies’, ‘where are the beds that need to be made’ and the instructor asked ‘who wants to practice first’ and they all volunteered, a whole classroom of hands shot up. It was really moving. It really struck me, when I’m in a class, I don’t want to volunteer, but in this one, every hand went up. It’s a small thing, but I think it’s a really good indicator of how important it is to these people.”

And, in case you needed any more incentive, we’ll leave you with this: as we pulled off the highway and up to the light where one of the usual suspects stood with his “Between jobs” signs (or it may have said “I won’t lie, I’m going to buy beer”), having Juan and Alex in our car, off to earn a days’ wage, made it very, very easy to look them in the eye and shake my head.

Update: Several readers have pointed out that there is a similar agency, The Millionair Club, that connects homeowners and the like with day laborers. Unlike Casa Latina and the parking lots, The Millionair Club ensures that all its laborers are documented and legal to employee. Wages start at $10 / hour and there is a 4 hour minimum. See their web site for more information.

  1. joe momma said,

    how did you handle the taxes?

    Tue, May 11 at 8:33 am
  2. Wallyhood said,

    Have you wondered how people who hold yard sales handle sales tax? Or how kids who mow lawns to earn extra money handle income tax? Clearly, there’s a recognized difference between the letter of the law and how it’s expected to be obeyed. This happens especially when dealing with small amounts. For example, even the IRS doesn’t expect me to withhold income tax for a nanny who earns less than $1,700 / yr.

    Whether this will ultimately impact my chances at surviving a Supreme Court nomination review, I can’t say.

    Tue, May 11 at 8:52 am
  3. Yani said,

    That’s an awesome review! I will keep Casa Latina in mind!
    Thanks.

    Tue, May 11 at 9:29 am
  4. Chris W. said,

    Thanks, Jordan.  I had no idea such a positive day worker program was here & thriving!

    Tue, May 11 at 9:38 am
  5. Lauren said,

    This is great information. I’ve often wondered how Casa Latina worked. I won’t hesitate to use them now.

    Tue, May 11 at 10:00 am
  6. Xavier said,

    I support immigration the proper way. Immigrants need to be documented and go through a set term as tax paying citizens without criminal records before being approved for US citizenship. This way they support our government while they reap the benefits. This way we can keep records on who are the bad apples. I’m not saying the process should be bureaucratic and arduous (as it is now), that is another issue. But there needs to be a screening process.
    What you are advocating is beneficial to you, you’re thinking of yourself, but hurtful to the overall economy and the government services we rely on. The money you spend on undocumented immigrants (of which most of the Home Depot crowd are members), does not support the local economy much. A large portion of that money is sent outside the US to their home country. Our government collects no taxes on it so the tax burden falls to a greater extent on all of us tax paying citizens and green card holding immigrants.
    Their stories are touching. I believe in a welcoming immigration policy and the current US immigration policy is too strict. However, to bypass the process causes other ill effects that you don’t directly see. You pass these problems on to other people when you hire undocumented immigrants.
    You can save time hiring local US citizens too you know. It might be a higher price but it supports your locality and will come back around to you.  Be generous, not frugal.
    And to bring in the comparison of the US drug addict/mentally disabled street person is disingenuous. Mexico and other immigrant countries have their share of those unfortunate people as well.
    Support Wallingford and the Seattle area, not Mexico.
    Thanks for the discussion.

    Tue, May 11 at 10:01 am
  7. Frank said,

    You’ve kind of glossed over it here in the post, but what are the laws surrounding hiring day laborers and checking on their work eligibility and what not?  I know it’s illegal in some states, California for example, to hire an undocumented worker (not that it’s super enforced for people picking up workers at Home Depot), does the same apply in WA?
    Not that every immigrant at these places is here illegally (obviously), but some certainly are likely to be, and it’d be nice to know my legal standing in doing something like this.
    I’m not going to be up for a US Cabinet position or anything (as far as I know…) and I doubt it would ever come up otherwise, but it’d be nice to know what the actual laws and stuff are here in WA.

    Tue, May 11 at 10:05 am
  8. Wallyhood said,

    @Xavier, you’ve articulated the other side of the story well, thank you. I disagree with the conclusion, though. I see the disparity between the US economy and the Mexican economy as an injustice, and the fact that my money goes towards balancing that I see as a positive, not a negative. We both agree that the immigration system as implemented today is broken, so while I agree that it should be repaired, I don’t think we should put the ability of individuals to earn a livelihood on hold indefinitely while our bureaucrats work on it is reasonable or ethically required.

    @Frank, I’m not a lawyer, but I have little doubt it’s illegal here, too. That said, Casa Latina is supported in part by city and county funds (as well as private donations), so that should be an indication of the attitude the local government takes on the issue. The fact that laws are enforced differentially based on societal and political attitudes is common and, I would say, a fundamental aspect of our system.

    Tue, May 11 at 10:33 am
  9. Chris W. said,

    @Xavier — I too see supporting these hardworking folks a positive thing, even if they send a good chunk of the money they make back to another country.  I spend a good chunk of money on cable TV and wireless internet.  ;-)
    When I lived in Texas, I worked with a number of undocumented folks in the restaurant business.  They supported the local economy by paying for their local housing, food, clothing, medical expenses, and in one particularly extreme case (Elpidio!), routinely paying traffic tickets.

    Tue, May 11 at 10:51 am
  10. brady said,

    I have used Casa Latina with great success. They gave me Marguerito, who is the hardest worker I have seen in a while. I have been using him directly since along with his nephew who speaks a little english. He doesn’t speak english. I can pass his info if anyone is interested. [email protected].
     

    Tue, May 11 at 11:01 am
  11. Jon said,

    I tend to agree with Wallyhood more than Xavier on the question of employing immigrants but for those who want another day labor option…. Millionair Club (http://millionairclub.org/) operates much like Casa Latina but the members are Seattle’s working poor and homeless. Have used them many times with good results.

    Tue, May 11 at 11:09 am
  12. Tom said,

    Just curious – is there a referral network for neighborhood youths for yardwork, window washing, pet sitting, dog walking jobs etc? perhaps the Boys and Girls Club or the Y? I expect its word of mouth.

    Tue, May 11 at 11:32 am
  13. KCW said,

    “I see the disparity between the US economy and the Mexican economy as an injustice, and the fact that my money goes towards balancing that I see as a positive, not a negative.”

    And have you communicated this to the Mexican government, or are you simply content to enable the current problem by breaking the law or not hiring a licensed and bonded contractors to do this work?  Sorry, you are the problem — not the solution. This may make you feel good but it’s not helping the problem.  

    If this is not a job for a licensed and bonded contractor as has been posted you could use the Millionair’s Club, which checks all its members and only asks you pay them at least $10 and hour for 4 hours.

    Tue, May 11 at 12:26 pm
  14. TIM said,

    Just don’t complain when YOU are replaced/outsourced by cheap illegal or overseas labor. I remember when liberal lefties where pro-union and supported living wages for the working class. Let’s face it you are practicing good old fashioned capitalist GREED by skirting the law to save a few bucks. The GOP would be proud of you Wallyhood. The arrogant hypocrisy of the typical twenty first century Seattle “liberal” is astounding.

    Tue, May 11 at 12:35 pm
  15. Wallyhood said,

    @KCW, no I haven’t communicated this to the Mexican government. If I sent them a letter, would that make my actions more OK? Life is not all black and white, it’s a series of grays, and we make our best judgment calls on how to behave. Have you ever exceeded 55 mph on the highway? If so, and you didn’t immediately report yourself to the police, does that mean that you are simply content to enable the current problem? And does that make you a bad person, or just someone making day-to-day calls that don’t always conform to an ideal?

    @Tim, if your comments were directed at anyone else, I would remove them. It’s possible to disagree with someone without resorting to name-calling and personal attacks. In fact, it’s desirable.

    As for the pro-union / working class: Casa Latina has unionized and established a minimum wage of $12 / hr for their workers. Seems like good ol’ fashioned liberal lefty thinking to me.

    It’s not greed motivating me. Until I was told about the Millionair’s Club by these readers, I didn’t know where to go to find US citizens that would dig my ditch. I paid well, and in fact paid more than I was asked to, for the work I received. You can disagree with me on the immigration issue, but to use terms like “capitalist greed” and “arrogant hypocrisy” is simply false. Injecting that kind of inflammatory rhetoric into what could be an interesting policy discussion is just useless.

    Tue, May 11 at 12:52 pm
  16. TIM said,

    What’s “inflamatory” is publishing a story INSTRUCTING and ENCOURAGING  readers to break the law. Your agenda is obvious and so is the timing.

    Tue, May 11 at 1:03 pm
  17. Wallyhood said,

    Remember, Tim, the agency I am directing them towards is funded by the city and county governments.

    I hadn’t actually thought about the timing of this story, what with Arizona and all, but yeah, you’re right, I have an agenda and it’s obvious. And, OK, how about that post title. Maybe a little inflammatory.

    As long as we’re admitting things, you’ll grant me my actions were in keeping with an ethos of maintaining a living wage for the working class, right? You can still disagree with my take on the hiring of illegal immigrants, but it will help the discussion if we can figure out what we agree on.

    Tue, May 11 at 1:12 pm
  18. Wallyhood said,

    I’ve updated the original post with information pointing to the Millionair Club. Thanks all for that information.

    Tue, May 11 at 1:20 pm
  19. Chris W. said,

    @Tim.  I find your assumptions inflammatory.  You statement “INSTRUCTING and ENCOURAGING readers to break the law” implies that everyone at Casa Latina is illegal.  While surely some day laborers are here illegally, it’s not true across the board.  I know a woman (US citizen) who did day labor in college to help pay tuition & minimize her student loans.
    Also, having an opinion & having an agenda are two different things.
    I’m glad to know where I can go get some johnny-on-the-spot short term help.  Otherwise, I’d probably go through Craigslist & hope the person who shows up at my house doesn’t give me the creeps.  And I wouldn’t know if the Craigslist helper is legal or not anyway.

    Tue, May 11 at 1:30 pm
  20. TIM said,

    Wrong … economists have studied the issue and have found that illegal immigration has suppressed wages in the sectors where illegals are employed.
    $15.00 an hour in cash (tax free!) is  a decent wage (especially if your illegal immigrant wife and citizen kids get welfare payments, food stamps and free medical care) but the larger issue is what is the cost to society at large when our borders are insecure and people like yourself thumb your noses at the law. A poll in Mexico found that 70% of the adult population would like to move to the US. Should we open the border and let them all in? What is your solution Wallyhood? Maybe you can volunteer to move south of the border and let an immigrant take your place.

    Tue, May 11 at 1:35 pm
  21. KCW said,

    “KCW, no I haven’t communicated this to the Mexican government. If I sent them a letter, would that make my actions more OK?”

    Totally missed the point. You are the one saying that the disparity between the US and Mexican economies is an injustice and by hiring illegal labor you feel you are righting this terrible injustice.

    I’m simply asking you why aren’t you lobbying the Mexican government over this injustice, or calling on Mexican citizens to effect positive change in their own country? Or is this simply more effort than you were willing to put into the problem?

    Tue, May 11 at 2:01 pm
  22. Wallyhood said,

    @KCW, yes, that’s more effort than I’m willing to put into the problem. I’m sure we could make a list that would apply to both of us of problems that we’re not willing to dedicate all of our energy to solving, but nonetheless have an opinion on and take some action on. For example, I’ve written and donated money to helping the situation in Darfur. The fact that I haven’t sold my house and moved there to take more direct action doesn’t mean it’s wrong or hypocritical to take the small steps I have.

    @Tim, Thanks, I wasn’t aware of those studies. It definitely helps me build a broader understanding of the situation. Similar to my response to KCW, I don’t think that I must take the most extreme action that my beliefs might suggest in order to be ethically consistent. That is, just because I believe there is injustice, ethics doesn’t require me to move to Mexico to right this particular wrong. I think many Americans today would agree that the way the Europeans slaughtered the native Americans and took their land they were living on was wrong, but very few think that we must return it at this point.

    Tue, May 11 at 2:24 pm
  23. SeattleAlan said,

    Hey, Wallyhood,
    Nice article and good discussion, though a bit of a can-of-worms, eh?

    Tue, May 11 at 2:35 pm
  24. Raffaella said,

    I think the other point here, which Chris W. pointed out, is that not all of the Casa Latina, or even the Home Depot folks are here illegally.  The post was about hiring immigrants, not illegal immigrants.  It’s not reasonable to assume that all Mexican laborers are illegal immigrants; plenty of legal immigrants work day-labor jobs in order to support themselves and live in this country.
     

    Tue, May 11 at 2:40 pm
  25. Mr. Bagley said,

    @Wallyhood: What effect do you think the hiring of undocumented workers has on your sponsors? I was just checking out those links on the right side of the page. Those are also hardworking people (I’ve used them!) , and they are trying to build legitimate businesses.
    Thanks for informing me that Casa Latina gets state and city funds. If this is true, I oppose it and plan to lobby against it.

    Tue, May 11 at 3:10 pm
  26. Raffaella said,

    Not to beat a dead horse, but Mr. Bagley – why are you assuming these people are undocumented?  Because they’re Mexican or speak Spanish?  How do we know that anyone at Casa Latina is undocumented?
    Also, how does hiring an immigrant (legal or otherwise) for a day’s work affect, say, Fainting Goat?  Do they do yard work, too?  I’m actually not being facetious with any of these questions.  I really want to know how you know these folks are illegal and how exactly they’re hurting local businesses.
    Immigrants, illegal or otherwise, pay sales tax on everything the buy, and just like any independent contractor are obligated to pay taxes on the work they do if they make over the annual limit set by the government.  How do you know that any independent contractor who does work for you pays their taxes?  Generally, you don’t.  If they don’t, they get in trouble, and it’s their problem.  Why are these folks different?
    What about the last time you hired a plumber to come out to your house – did you check his papers?  Make sure he pays his taxes?  How did you know he wasn’t illegal?  How is Casa Latina different?
    It’s a cliche, but I’ll add it to the pile of cliches that’s been used so far in this discussion: we’re all immigrants in this country and you could very well argue that we’re a nation of illegal immigrants since this land was occupied when Europeans got here and we certainly didn’t have permission to take it over they way we did.  Those of us who’s families came out here a long time ago aren’t going anywhere, though, and neither are the newer arrivals among us.
     

    Tue, May 11 at 3:34 pm
  27. Julian said,

    This comment thread has been most illuminating. I had not previously known that ditch-diggers or house-cleaners needed to be licensed and bonded contractors, or that it is imperative to demand proof of citizenship and last years tax return from everyone I do business with. I was also unaware that anything short of *complete and total* sacrifice to a particular cause was proof of hypocrisy.  

    Aside from the (Fremont) trolls, interesting post and discussion … I don’t find the timing suspicious, myself. There’s always some nuttery going on around this issue.

    Tue, May 11 at 4:08 pm
  28. Mr. Bagley said,

    @Raffaella You are changing the subject. Read my post. I am asking how hiring undocumented workers affects local businesses. I am not assuming anyone is an undocumented worker though Wallyhood says as much in the original post.
    So to be specific, why should I call Green Cleaning or Debris Free again when I can just hire somebody off the street?
    I’ll grant you that I don’t know for certain that the dudes at Home Depot or Casa Latina are undocumented. Is it probable? Maybe only 10% are. I don’t know, you tell me.
    Respectfully yours.

    Tue, May 11 at 4:24 pm
  29. Flash said,

    Did… Did I just read something controversial on Wallyhood? I just skimmed at first, saw Home Depot, and wondered what organization was holding a bake sale there. I will keep this simple. If you are a man with a family to feed and all that stands between you and a better life for your family is a fence, you climb that fence. If you do not, you are not a man. You are a damnable coward.

    Tue, May 11 at 4:29 pm
  30. Magala said,

    Thanks for the great review, Jordan!  I have heard good things about both organizations in the past, but your first-hand neighbor account is especially valuable. I appreciate your taking the time to write it up.

    Tue, May 11 at 5:48 pm
  31. Lisa said,

    I will have to add my two cents to the people supporting the Millionair Club. These guys that I have used in the past have all been hard workers and clearly appreciated the work and I didn’t need a translator to communicate with them. I can’t condone hiring anyone from Home Depot or Casa Latina because the majority of these people are illegal. And since this is a “sanctuary” city, I don’t believe it’s legal to ask them if they’re illegal, thereby putting me at risk for doing something illegal by hiring them. I was very frustrated when last year in the Times I read that we (city of Seattle)  wouldn’t cough up $250,000 for annual health screenings for all of our firefighters (remember the stories of the alarming numbers of cancer cases they’re reporting?), but there was no problem putting up $250,000 annually for Casa Latina. That’s just wrong. We have plenty of out-of-work Americans that need whatever jobs you can provide, so please consider the folks at the Millionair Club the next time you have some work that needs doing around the house.

    Tue, May 11 at 5:53 pm
  32. Kelley said,

    Have had great luck with hiring out-of-work acquaintances (documented citizens? I dunno) as well as HD day laborers to do yardwork and housecleaning. On an 85-degree day last summer hired three HD guys to trim and weed and clean and I’ve never seen three guys work so hard for three hours straight for $15/hr and lunch.

    Tue, May 11 at 6:00 pm
  33. Patrick said,

    Wow.  Quite a set of comments, many opinions and . . . . wait for it . . .  almost no documented facts. That’s fine – so long as everyone represents opinion as that, and facts as, well facts.
    @Tim – so sure of those studies? Do please include a link. 3 would be better if from different sources. I’ve found that 3 different sources presenting three sets of data tend to narrow the issue quite a bit. If I read just The Economist, or just the NY Times, or just the Seattle Times – I’m not really getting very close to the real data.
    @KCW – same goes for you. Have you information that the Mexican government encourages its citizens to leave for the US? Information that the citizens from Mexico are happy with the status quo? Do send along those links!
    (I’m not being facetious here. I recently decided to find out as much as a I could about who is paying taxes to the Federal treasury, and was surprised to find that I didn’t have the right information. Turns out EVERYONE (Individuals of all incomes and corporations)  are paying FAR less than they did 30 years ago. It also turns out that while corporate income tax RATES are higher now than a few years ago (but not as high as when President Reagan was in office) – MOST corporations aren’t paying those rates. So – details really matter). Oh. If you want the links to the info I just posted, I’m happy to provide. But there are a lot – not as easy as sending just one link!
     

    Tue, May 11 at 10:33 pm
  34. Chris W. said,

    @Flash — thanks!  @Patrick, I was reading along & was going to tease you & ask for your links, but you brought the issue up yourself so I can’t tease you now.  Thanks a lot.

    Tue, May 11 at 11:03 pm
  35. Herman said,

    Great post. Casa Latina sounds like an awesome organization. I do not currently (or foreseeably) have any need for day laborers, but if I ever do I will certainly give them a call. Thanks.

    Wed, May 12 at 12:06 am
  36. Flash said,

    @Chris – You have no idea how long it took me to phrase that without using profanity. There is a choice, albeit sexist, term I had a lot of trouble getting around. If the only option your kids have is digging bamboo ditches because you didn’t hop a fence so you could pay for their school, you are a (redacted). @EachAndEverySingleOneOfYou – What do you suggest they do? Unsecured student loans aren’t common in Mexico. Malnutrition IS fairly common. Foreign aid does NOTHING for the ‘local economy’ here. If you really feel you need a bamboo privacy fence abutting your hot tub because you feel sheepish in your skivvies, hire an illegal. Everyone wins. QED.

    Wed, May 12 at 12:12 am
  37. Anonymous said,

    Service isn’t taxable.

    Wed, May 12 at 7:49 am
  38. Patrick said,

    Thought I’d add in some of those links:
    Lowest tax rates since 1950
    http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2010-05-10-taxes_N.htm
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/08/tax_receipts_fall_off_a_cliff.html
    http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2009/03/us-tax-receipts-cliff-dive-to-14-year.html
    (so there you go – three different sources – all with different takes on how much tax revenue has dropped. All told though – pretty clear that the Feds are collecting less)
    And here’s some info about how the tax rate for Corporations has waxed and waned over the years:
    http://www.ustreas.gov/education/fact-sheets/taxes/ustax.shtml
    And here’s just one article about how most corporations aren’t paying taxes:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1249465620080812

    Wed, May 12 at 8:28 am
  39. Chris W. said,

    Nice, Patrick.  Thanks!  @Flash, your restraint is laudable.

    Wed, May 12 at 10:10 am
  40. Elizabeth said,

    Thanks for highlighting Casa Latina!  I volunteer with them, and they are a great organization.  I really appreciate this post, and hope we see more like it!

    Wed, May 12 at 10:20 am
  41. Eli said,

    Great to see Casa Latina getting visibility. Casa Latina is an organization that I respect very much. Casa Latina organizes a group of workers who are vulnerable to being subjected to substandard working conditions, low pay, and even wage theft. By organizing one of the most vulnerable labor groups, Casa Latina helps to raise the working conditions for all. I strongly encourage socially conscious people to utilize the day labor services they provide.

    Fri, May 14 at 9:49 pm
  42. Lisa said,

    Eli, actually illegal workers and places that assist them in finding work  lower the working conditions and wages for all. Several of my friends in the construction industry have found work more scarce because a contractor will save money by hiring a bunch of guys from Home Depot instead of hiring legal workers at fair union wages.

    Sun, May 16 at 12:15 pm
  43. Reason said,

    Relative to payroll taxes, casual laborers are independent contractors until you establish a more formal relationship with them – i.e. please come back every day for the next few weeks to finish this project – which can push the total compensation up over the IRS limits. The workers are supposed to keep records and pay taxes, but you are not responsible for whether or not they do.

    Technically, when you pick up people at Home Depot you are violating the laws about documentation for employment – but since you are not establishing an employer-employee relationship, it’s moot. Casa Latina IS responsible for such documentation, but no one will prosecute them because they are providing a solution to a messy grey area. “Yup, here illegally, sign here and he can still work for you.”

    Tue, February 11 at 11:54 am
  44. Reason said,

    And for those concerned about unions, ‘outsourcing’, living wages, etc. Last time I looked $12-15/hour was a good wage for casual labor.

    I don’t understand the concept of “Union” wages (I did not grow up here, I’m from a State where anyone can work, regardless of whether or not they are in the right union). That said, $15/hour is very good pay for casual (i.e. unskilled) labor – people with trade skills, etc. are paid more. Digging, lifting, carrying, etc. are entry level jobs where people can prove that they work hard, take direction, and do quality work. Such jobs are essential to training new workers and getting projects done – but they are not worth the same as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. Those trades have apprenticeship programs (see S. Seattle CC) and people go and get trained in them. Then they work their way up the craft hierarchy as they gain experience and skills. In boom times, labor shortages occur and prices for work go up, but the returns on the projects are better too. During weak economies (like we are still in now, and have been for some time) the supply of low skilled labor is greater, and wages drift down because the financial returns on the projects are more risky and lower.

    Tue, February 11 at 12:03 pm

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