Day Worker Center continues to grow despite challenges | December 5, 2008 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - December 5, 2008

Day Worker Center continues to grow despite challenges

by Daniel DeBolt

Lorenzo Organista once led a platoon of men in the Mexican Army. Now, in Mountain View and nearby cities, he's a leader of another sort.

With his crew cut and green jacket, Organista, 39, still looks a bit like an army officer, and the workers seem to regard him as if he were. But since coming to the U.S. nine years ago, he was made his living as a day worker specializing in tree trimming and gardening.

Lately, he has been getting a little extra money from the police department for a part-time job reaching out to day workers on the street. Once a week, Organista meets workers as they wait around on street corners and informs them of their rights and responsibilities, and of the free services at Mountain View's Day Worker Center.

Over the last year, thanks to the efforts of Organista and police Officer Tony Lopez, more and more workers are using the Day Worker Center. There are at least 200 day workers in the city, officials estimate, and about half seek work on the street, where employers have been known to write bad checks or pay egregiously low wages.

The others seek work through the center, where employers and workers alike can be held accountable. The center, open since 1996, also provides English lessons, lunches, legal advice and a mobile medical clinic that visits regularly.

Workers at the center have been hard hit by the slowing economy. Last week, center director Maria Marroquin was surprised when there were only 14 jobs available for the 99 workers waiting for work. It has been "horrible," she said, considering that on an average day in a good economy the center might have 60 to 70 jobs available.

Meanwhile, there are more day workers than ever before, competing for a shrinking number of jobs.

In the San Antonio shopping center parking lot, where many day workers go to await an employer, men gather in small groups of eight or so, usually based on countries of origin, said Officer Lopez. If a man arrives from Guatemala, he will usually hang around other Guatemalans.

Some of these groups don't like the rules that the center imposes, which include no drinking or gambling. Others say there isn't enough work at the center, and still others have developed relationships with employers who don't use the center.

Meanwhile, last year the center had to move to its current location at Hope and Mercy streets, putting it farther from the San Antonio parking lot and making Organista's job that much harder.

But despite all these obstacles, "We have noticed a real change in the attitude of the workers on El Camino," Organista says. "This program has had an impact. More people are arriving from El Camino Real to find employment at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View."

Lately, Organista has been accompanied by Stanford student Joe Mellin, who is working on a Web site for day workers to help them find jobs. It provides each worker's story, work experience, a summary of skills and testimonials from employers. Some day workers have years of experience in skilled labor such as construction trades, but employers usually know little about the workers they hire, Mellin said.

As for Organista, his goal is to save enough money to open a small supermarket. But he admits that is a long way off. Like a lot of the workers, it has been years since he's seen his children — he was forced to leave the four of them behind because there weren't any jobs in Mexico. Now he considers the center a "second home," where people are like family.

Marroquin said money from the Voice Holiday Fund will go towards community relations efforts. The center also is looking for contributions that will help pay to renovate its newly purchased building on Escuela Avenue.

For more information, visit or call (650) 903-4102.


Posted by ??????????, a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2008 at 7:11 am

Another example of bleeding heart liberals who helped to wreck my USA.

Posted by Randall Flagg, a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 7, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Mexico will continue to be a decadent feudal serfdom until we here in the USA stop acting as a steam valve for their atrocious self-inflicted class pressures.

Posted by Robin Iwai, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 9, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Thank you to the Voice for your article about men and women who are working hard to learn English and support their families....and who gave back to their community in their spare time!

In 2008 our workers...
- held 2 blood drives for Stanford Blood Center
- cleaned up the Sr Center garden and a public school garden
- painted stripes at the St. Joseph Church parking lot
- set up for the Los Altos July 4 event in Shoup Park
- assembled 70 new desks for Huff School
- 30 day workers were trained by the Red Cross in CPR and First Aid

Robin Iwai
Board President
Day Worker Center of Mountain View

Posted by Big Deal, a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2008 at 3:28 pm

U.S. Citizens could have done these tasks. I'm sure your workers were paid.

Posted by Tom S., a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 9, 2008 at 4:58 pm

We'd do better by supporting Veterans of our own Armed Forces with jobs and support.

Posted by Mr. USA, a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Good point!!! We need to take care of our own first, not let the church dictate the rules of these sheep.

Posted by How is this legal?, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2008 at 8:33 pm

How is it legal to employ undocumented Aliens who do not have Social Security cards? Who pays for these "skilled" workers if they are injured on the job? Who pays unemployment benefits for the Citizens put out of work because he or she was undercut by "day workers."

Let me remind you who pays: it is the documented workers or Citizens (e.g., tax payers) of this country who have to incur these costs. This is, of course, in addition to the enormous amount Citizens are already paying for health care, schooling, housing and the criminal justice system for undocumented aliens and their families. When will America say enough? We can't continue to afford all this "cheap" labor.

Posted by Kenneth, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2008 at 7:13 am

It should be Immigration Officers making contact with the workers on El Camino and providing them a free ride back to the border. Hiring undocumented criminals (yes,ALL illegal immigrants are criminals and should be treated as such) is foolish (not to mention illegal) and I am distressed that our police department would be involved in supporting such a venture.

Posted by Mr. Smith, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2008 at 8:50 am

I believe the church with thier bleeding heart liberals are the main cause behind this problem. They just want to increase there numbers
without regard to the rest of us. How much $ is spent on a work center to harbor criminals while US Vets are homeless in the streets.

Posted by General Contractor, a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2008 at 12:08 am

Please allow the proliferation of affordable labor. With skilled workers so readily available my family and I are able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in the Silicon Valley. If I had to hire Americans it would easily cost two to three times what I can hire day laborers for. And I don't have to pay all the state and federal taxes. But don't think my workers aren't getting paid well, some are making ten times more than what they used to earn. My workers have money to support their families here and are able to send money to their remaining families back home. My customers are getting more for less. This is a win-win-win situation for my workers, customers and me.