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Laborers love the newly remodeled Bay Parkway Job Center

Day laborers have a reason to cheer; what could’ve been a chaotic situation after their former community job center was destroyed after Hurricane Sandy, turned out to be the reason they now have a nicer place to meet.

The Bay Parkway Community Job Center reopened its doors in February of this year with elected officials and contractors present to celebrate the triumph. The high winds had wrecked their small shed, where up to 15 men would meet to wait for work to come to them; but the days of standing in the corners on cold and rainy days are finally over. After several months, the center is back.

The hard-working laborers, mostly of Hispanic descent, have come together under one roof to demand that their basic rights are met. With the help of Yadira Sanchez, wife of one of the laborers, and Ligia Guallpa, the Workers Justice Project, which is the organization that managers the center, stands stronger than ever.

“There are no rules [in the corners where they stand],” said Sanchez about the first-come, first-served services. “Many times, a worker just takes the job claiming to know how to do something that they don’t. That’s what necessity makes you do.”

But the center works differently. The hiring trailer is responsible for the skills of every one of its workers, even having a list of respective prices for the work that needs to be done. For example, the cost for a general laborer’s services is $120/$130 per day, with the contractor obligated to provide lunch. For smaller jobs that take less time, the rate is $60 per four hours.

“Prices can be negotiated,” noted Sanchez, adding that these rates are at least a way to prevent the abuse that the workers sometimes endure.

“It’s not easy,” said Gaspar Reyes, a daily laborer at the center. “Your feet freeze on cold days until you can feel them no more.”

“It’s beautiful here,” Reyes said of the much-preferred trailer. The trailer has a generator, so that the laborers can brew the perfect cup of coffee in the morning it is furnished with foldable chairs, a wooden table and pictures up on its walls that remind everyone of the work they’ve done together in the past.

“We respect one another and value honesty,” Sanchez noted, adding that the center’s goal is to continue maintaining open communication between participants.

Laborers pay $10 to the job center that goes towards utilities like the cell-phone bill.

Future projects include the remodeling of the center, which would show the skills of its workers, in hopes of attracting more contractors, as well as add an office, a meeting area and storage to the existing center; and holding classes that would be taught by its laborers—an electrician, for example, would teach the rest of the laborers how to do what he does, and so on.

“We make decisions together here,” remarked Sanchez. “We are constantly participating in improving the center.”

The center is located at Ceasar’s Bay, near 8919 Bay Parkway. Its phone number is 718-600-0425. Business hours are from 7 a.m. to noon on Mondays through Fridays and from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturdays.

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