Angel Martinez said he just wants to find work in a poor economy, but a Carrboro ordinance has led to police harassment and made finding construction jobs difficult.
Martinez joined about 25 other day laborers, social justice activists and residents Tuesday for a press conference at the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie roads — where many day laborers wait to find work — to oppose a town ordinance that limits the times when people may gather there.
After the conference, participants submitted a letter listing their grievances signed by about 115 residents, said Rafael Gallegos, the associate director of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center.
The 2007 ordinance bans loitering at the intersection between 11 a.m. and 5 a.m.
It was created to handle complaints about people who urinated, littered and harassed others at the corner. It has faced criticism for its impact on laborers and possible unconstitutionality.
Gallegos said while working at the center, he has heard complaints about the harmful effects the ordinance has on laborers.
He said the law prevents workers from finding jobs in the winter months, when offers are made past 11 a.m.
Michael Brough, Carrboro’s town attorney, said the purpose of the ordinance was to prevent crime in the area and not to target day laborers.
“The hours were deliberately structured so that it would not impact day laborers,” he said. “If it operates in a fashion that inhibits day laborers from finding work, that was not the intention.”
Brough said the town welcomes feedback on the ordinance, but so far no facts have suggested it should be changed.
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen has supported repealing the ordinance once a plan for handling day laborers is in place.
The rule might also infringe on workers’ first amendment right to gather in public, said Elizabeth Haddix, staff attorney at UNC’s Center for Civil Rights.
Meredith Rose, a third-year UNC law student, said she was surprised to learn the ordinance existed in her town.
“This is not compatible with the worker-friendly Carrboro I have come to love,” she said.
Chris Kreutzer, who lives near Jones Ferry and Davie roads, said some who stand on the corner urinate and litter in his yard.
He said he understands why people worry about the impact on day laborers, but the problems must be dealt with.
“Until there’s a better idea I’m very much in favor of it.”
Rev. Robert Campbell, first vice president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, said the ordinance denies day laborers the right to find jobs.
“We are using this law to oppress people.”
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