Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Hurricane a windfall for day laborers
From the NY Times:
For a population accustomed to scraping by, Hurricane Sandy has been a boon, conjuring up demolition and construction work that has been mostly absent since the housing market’s collapse and providing a spike in remittances to families in Mexico, Central America and South America.
These mostly Hispanic workers, some of whom are in the country illegally, have suddenly become a ubiquitous and indispensable presence in seaside communities in New York and New Jersey, where residents who might once have spurned hiring them are racing to make their homes livable again as soon as possible. Despite the influx of volunteers — sometimes regarded as competitors by the day laborers — there is so much demand for their services that even women who have typically made a living as domestics are gathering on street corners and in front of hardware stores to help with the grueling work.
Standing on a corner of 69th Street in Woodside, Queens, dozens of men waited in the early morning cold for contractors’ trucks to pass by. Each time a car stopped, the men would sprint to the window. After a brief negotiation — $15 an hour was the going rate, though some agreed to work for less — a few would climb inside and speed off.
Because so much of the initial cleanup work was unskilled, day laborers sometimes had to compete against volunteers. But a day laborer at a gathering spot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who declined to give his full name and who worked for $10 an hour in the Rockaways and Red Hook, said, “Sometimes they need someone faster than volunteers.”