I love the hypocrisy of Herndon’s Day Labor Site controversy, where the good people of Herndon want to have the benefits of cheap labor that can be hired and fired on a daily basis – manicured lawns, new homes, home repairs, Herndon Labor Day Jazz & Wine Festival clean-up, and other menial, repetitive, and dirty jobs done cheaply and quickly – yet do not want to have the day labor pool that makes that possible.
For several years now, the first Wash Post article I can find dates to 2003, they’ve had an informal day labor market around a 7-11, the time-honored country-wide location. There men, mainly from Central & South America, but in decades past would’ve been Irish or Italian, wait hopefully for work that will pay them a barely-livable wage. A wage which they will use mainly to support families back home, and are often cheated out of through ignorance or outright cheapness.
And still, day in and day out, they congregate there, looking for work that the residents of Herndon demand and yet are too cheap to pay living or better yet, union wages for. Work that none of you reading this would want to do. Work that only recent immigrants, ones whose lack of English skills usually more than trade skills, will stoop low enough to do.
Now that the city is trying to make an organized spot for them, one that would offer formal contracts to workers, teach them English, integrate them better into American society, and even offer them a simple bathroom while they wait, the residents are up in arms. For them, it’s not about adding organization to what is now chaos, which would benefit everyone. Nope, it’s about what really matters to the good residents of Herndon, as this quote from the Wash Post article today shows:
Kathleen Paul, whose house abuts the proposed site, said five of the 30 houses on her street are for sale, but prospective buyers are not being brought to see them. “You are putting our families and our property values in jeopardy,” she said.
Property values, eh? Who do you think built and now maintains that very property you so treasure, the Umpa Lumpas? No, those very day labors you wanna run out of town. Again, from the Wash Post:
“All of you have very nice houses,” said Neddy Vargas, 25, in Spanish. The “majority of the people who built these houses have been those people you are calling illegal,” said Vargas, who identified himself as a day laborer.
As a guy whose worked day labor jobs and once had the calluses to prove it, and whose father was a Mexican construction worker who pulled himself up from the banks of the Rio Grande to a successful community leader, I am disgusted by Herndon’s antics. How can folks look in the mirror or better yet, their family tree with any shred of dignity or self-respect after asking questions like this:
No. 43: “How will the project managers ensure that my grandchildren are not exposed to the workers while they are waiting for their school bus in the morning?”
They should be so lucky as to “be exposed” to hard working immigrants, who gave up everything they knew and loved to fix your sink for $5 a hour, and who will, in a few short years, be more flag-waving patriotic than you could ever be when they make it in this Land of Opportunity. Right after they learn a new word your teaching them right now: hypocrisy
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs