What do we really know about day laborers in CA?

In yesterday’s mail I received another report from the Public Policy Institute of CA PPIC entitled “Day Labor in the Golden State” that provides data that I had not seen before. PPIC Research Fellow Arturo Gonzalez covers “day laborers who search for temporary employment on street corners, in front of home improvement stores, and at city-sponsored worker centers.” While we often read about Policy Issues and local city council actions to deal with undocumented workers including crackdowns of these centers in Laguna Beach, Lake Forest, and other articles about Costa Mesa and Mission Viejo we have not seen any hard data as to:

1. How does the day laborer market work?
2. What are the social and demographic characteristics of day laborers in CA?
3. What are their working conditions?

The report states that “approximately 40,000 workers are either looking for day labor jobs or employed as day laborers on any given day. This work force represents only 3 percent of the state’s male undocumented workforce and only 0.2 percent of its total workforce.”

Arturo goes on to say that “80 percent of California day laborers are undocumented.” They are typically a Mexican male in his early 30’s, with seven years of schooling, who has been in the US for less than 10 years.”

In his report Arturo includes Table 7, a bar chart of the various jobs where these “off-the-books” day laborers are employed. Leading the list is construction followed by moving/hauling, painting, gardening/landscaping, roofing, drywall and several other trades ending with being a cook.

The report states that “day laborers earn $259 per week on average. It also mentions their earning $11.32 per hour. The question that needs to be asked deals with taxation of this income.

This report is available free of charge and should be posted on PPIC’s website.

Note: Arturo Gonzalez is a research fellow at PPIC. He is the author of “Mexican Americans and the US Economy: Quest for Buenos Dias.” In the report he acknowledges contributions by several individuals including Kristina Campbell (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.)

What’s your feedback on this July 2007 PPIC Report?

About Larry Gilbert