For the day laborers who frequent the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie roads in Carrboro, a steady job is anything but guaranteed.
For almost two decades, a group of primarily Latino males has assembled daily at this intersection to wait for the arrival of employers with short-term manual work.
Their presence has been both a blessing to the local economy and a burden to those who live in the surrounding neighborhood.
“There have been, from time to time, issues with the situation at that intersection: litter, occasionally public consumption of alcohol,” said Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton.
Carrboro officials have heard these complaints and are now responding by providing these workers with a representative who can act as their voice in the community.
“We’re creating a staff position, making some grant funds available with one of the non-profits to hire someone to advocate for the rights of the day laborers,” Chilton said.
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen is currently working with El Centro Hispano to interview and hire a community organizer.
After receiving 31 applications for the position, the selection committee interviewed 10 candidates and has narrowed it down to three semi-finalists —Jose Cardenas, Allison O’Connell and Elly Goetz.
Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, president and CEO of El Centro Hispano, has been involved in the hiring process and said she thinks this position will make a positive impact on the workers and the community.
“The idea is really to help the workers but to be able to resolve the issue as well,” Rocha-Goldberg said.
“This person needs to work with the town, with the community at large, with community organizers and with employers. This person will be a liaison between all these stakeholders, all these groups who are involved in the day labor situation.”
Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell said stopping the exploitation of pay should be goal of the community organizer.
“Their struggle is more complex than getting the work, it’s getting paid for it. Wage theft is a very big problem,” Haven-O’Donnell said.
“Undocumented workers now, they’re being hired for a short time thing and they fall between the cracks in terms of having their work documented for payment.”
Haven-O’Donnell said she hopes the task force will wrap up the process in the next two weeks.
“The applicant must … advocate for (day laborers) and make sure their working conditions are safe and dignified and they have the resources they need to link up with the right kind of people,” she said.
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