Day laborer supporters rally in Pomona

The following article appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:


Monica Rodriguez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Created: 04/03/2012 09:17:50 AM PDT


POMONA — A group of day laborers urged Pomona City Council members on Monday night to continue providing funding for the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center.

The center, also known as the Pomona Day Labor Center, has been open for about 15 years with financial support from the city.

In recent years, the center received financial assistance through the city’s now defunct redevelopment agency.   

The center has not received funding since the middle of last year following the approval of state legislation approving the dismantling of redevelopment agencies around the state. The passage of the legislation kicked off months in which the future of redevelopment agencies became unclear.

Day laborers and their supporters, which included students, labor organizers, immigrant rights activists and others, held a rally outside of Pomona City Hall prior to the start of Monday’s meeting.

The rally drew about 100 people, most of whom walked from Garey High School in southern Pomona to City Hall as part of the 10th Annual Community Pilgrimage in honor of the late Cesar Chavez.

Once at City Hall, the group listened to speakers and prayed for the City Council’s support before heading to the Council Chambers to present their request.

Juan Medina, a member of the center’s staff, was among those who addressed the council. He said since the center was established it has provided a service for both workers and the community.

Opening the center drew workers away from multiple street corners where they gathered seeking work, he said.

For residents, the center is the source of reliable workers, Medina said.

Community members “come because they know they’ll find someone who will know how to do the job” they need done, Medina said in Spanish.

The center is the source of jobs that support many families, he said.

“What can I tell you, many families depend on the center,” Medina said.

Alberto Aguila told the council he has been a laborer securing work through the center since it opened.

It is through the center that workers are able to “put food on the table, to put clothes on our children (and) to pay medical bills,” he said.

Suzanne Foster, executive director of the center, said over the years the center diversified its funding sources by securing grants but the assistance of the city is still needed.

The weak economy has impacted the center, which is assisting more people as they look for work, she said.

As a result of the recession, “more and more people are turning to day labor,” Foster said.

If the center was to close, many people would be affected and some of them would wind up becoming homeless, she said.

The center continues to assist workers obtaining short and long term jobs in trades and helping them negotiate fair wages, many said.

In addition, the center assists workers by assisting them in other areas such as English language instruction and helping them access health services with the assistance of non-profit health care organizations.

Job training is also offered through a peer to peer program at the center, Foster said.

Pomona City Manager Linda Lowry is expected to meet with Foster and other center representatives later this week.

Mayor Elliott Rothman said the center and funding for it will be on the April 16 council meeting agenda, but if additional time is needed to gather information and present possible funding options to the council, the matter could be moved to May.

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