Over the past four weeks, our series “Ghost Workers” has shed light on the day laborers, or jornaleros, of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, in Woodside illuminating a way of life that many borough residents have never seen.
Many of these workers have undertaken perilous journeys from their homelands to reach our country. They wait every day on the street corners, uncertain whether they will find a job. Once at work, many face dangerous conditions; some are abused and cheated out of their promised pay, while others suffer injuries on their jobs, which employers often ignore.
We understand that some people believe that these day laborers, many of whom are undocumented, do not deserve the same protections and rights as American citizens. However, these workers are a vital part of the city’s economy and need help.
Instead of waiting on the corner for work, these jornaleros must have a place where they can take refuge from the cold and find the tools for integration into society. They should have a job center, which should include English classes, assistance with citizenship applications and career advice. It would serve both the workers and the surrounding community - because these laborers would be able to find the resources to create better lives for themselves.
Two years ago, the city council endorsed the creation of job centers to regulate wage and safety conditions, but little else has been done on the governmental level. The blueprint remains in limbo, and still nothing has been done for the jornaleros.
Instead, grassroots organizers have created job centers at two informal locations in Brooklyn with minimal support from elected officials. Meanwhile in Woodside, which many believe to be the largest day laborer gathering site in the city, no center exists.
The time to act is now.
We believe that the elected officials who represent this area must come up with the dollars - not just seed money, but full funding - to form a public/private partnership to make this Queens job center a reality.
The day laborers need help to get off the street corners and to be integrated into their communities. While we believe that this type of organized, fully-funded job center is needed in Woodside near 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, it should not be restricted to this site, but rather serve as a model for others to follow in the borough and the city.
Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the country and has paved the way on a number of groundbreaking issues.
Let us continue to set the example by raising the funds necessary to create a job center for the “Ghost Workers” of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue.