Day Worker Center's role more crucial than ever

Rising cost of living makes job-seeker hub vital to those living on the edge

The Mountain View Day Worker Center is like a firewall holding back a wave of social ills, said executive director Maria Marroquin.

Factors such as crime prevention, good education and preventative health care depend on the ability of individuals to provide for their households. If those bread-winners can't provide, that's when families are forced to make sacrifices -- parents spend more time working and less at home, families eat more fast food, children get pulled out of school to move elsewhere. In the end, society as a whole usually ends up dealing with the consequences.

Prevention is how Marroquin sees as the role of her organization, and why it is more vital for Mountain View than ever before. For many, making a livelihood in the South Bay is as difficult as it's ever been, due to the rising cost of living and a lack of affordable housing. That trend is forcing more people than ever to make hard choices, she said.

"The community is still suffering from this crisis," she said. "Almost all of the workers each have a family they're trying to provide for."

Started nearly 20 years ago, the Mountain View Day Worker Center has matured into a pillar of Mountain View and the surrounding area, providing a job hub, training facility and a one-stop resource center for people seeking help. On a regular basis, people come seeking legal advice, help with translating documents or even a ride to the DMV to take a driver's license test.

But more than anything else, what most are looking for at the Day Worker Center is an honest day's work. Over the years, some 7,000 people -- dubbed companeros at the center -- have come through its doors seeking jobs or job training. On a daily basis, about 50 people show up each morning, some making a two-hour journey, to be ready when a new work request arrives.

The Day Worker Center is one of seven local nonprofits benefiting from the Voice's annual Holiday Fund. Donations to the fund are divided equally among the organizations, and will be matched by the Wakerly Family Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Lucile Packard Foundation. With the support of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 100 percent of donations go directly to these nonprofits. More information about the Holiday Fund can be found here.

At the Day Worker Center, anyone in need of labor -- such as landscaping, moving or even cooking -- can swing by the center or submit a work order online. Workers are typically paid $15 an hour, or sometimes more.

On many days, there simply won't be enough jobs to go around, and some of the workers are instead encouraged to take free training courses to help improve their marketable skills. The most popular of these programs is the English language classes, which is considered the most valuable skill to have in the job market.

"It's like a family, with all the problems and happiness that a family has," Marroquin said, on a Monday morning just after the weekly meeting with the companeros. The meeting, which was translated into both English and Spanish, stretched as members discussed the matter at hand: what to do about the discarded cigarette butts left in the parking lot.

Following the meeting, several worker stuck around the meeting room chatting or scanning their cell phones. Given the rainy winter day, it was not the peak time for finding work.

Among the group waiting was Ronald Martinez, who described himself as a regular at the Day Worker Center since losing his job with the Postal Service. A resident of Mountain View, he said he was sleeping on a living-room couch in a crowded apartment for about $300 a month. But it was worth it to be close to work, he said. He had done a number of regular gardening and moving jobs since joining the center, and he liked the community better than that at similar organizations in other parts of the Bay Area.

"Here, we're like brothers, always looking out for each other, and protecting each other," he said.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


10 people like this
Posted by Tt
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 3, 2016 at 8:28 am

The workers center is a true blessing to Mt view. As a disabled adult with no family support I have used the center to help with cleaning and moving furniture. The workers are honest and kind. Love this place. Gy7je

6 people like this
Posted by J
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 3, 2016 at 8:47 am

Instead of Google moving in and taking over they should help some way instead of raising rent for everyone in the city that's forcing them to look else where like my family and everyone else I know. I see a lot of change and money being made but the people come first !!!!!!! Yes I understand change is good but how is it helping the people???

21 people like this
Posted by Question on service
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 3, 2016 at 10:56 am

Are people at the day worker center authorized to work in the US? I was told it was against US law to hire someone without permission to work, but the day worker center website says they don't check for these papers. Are we supposed to do that? I'm confused what the law is and don't want to do anything illegal. Can someone clarify? Thanks!

16 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2016 at 9:49 pm

@Question on service:

It is the employer's responsibility to adhere to current employment regulations. The Day Worker Center does not employ the people they service.

If a worker is connected to an employer via the Day Worker Center, it does not absolve the employer from verifying the potential candidates actual status. Remember, the employer is the one responsible for maintaining the job records, not the center.

Of course, if there is any doubt, please consult with an employment attorney before you hire anyone.

Good luck.

15 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 3, 2016 at 9:56 pm


Is it customary to ask them to provide work authorization? Social Security card or US Passport? I thought many of them didn't have legal status, so wouldn't it be illegal to hire them?

14 people like this
Posted by Need Help
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 4, 2016 at 7:06 am

What about workers compensation insurance? Who is responsible if a worker has an accident or is injured once hired?

4 people like this
Posted by MV Resident, LASD
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm

MV Resident, LASD is a registered user.

I thought one of the reasons we were supposed to support the Day Work Center was because it would get men off the streets and out of the parking lots. However, every day I go through the back of the Walmart parking lot and there are at least 5 men hanging out behind the old Fresh Choice ... seemingly waiting for someone to come by to offer them a job... ???

3 people like this
Posted by mn_test347
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2016 at 3:46 pm

mn_test347 is a registered user.

I wonder if the center is an enabler of illegal immigration. If workers were screened for eligibility to work in the US, I would be more inclined to use it.

@Nick - a social security card does not grant permission to work in the US.

7 people like this
Posted by mn_test347
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2016 at 4:00 pm

mn_test347 is a registered user.

@Need Help -

The employer (you) is responsible for medical costs if they are injured. You could claim that they were a friend just helping you out, and make a claim on your homeowner's insurance. That's how this whole scheme works - getting $30/hour labor for $15/hour - through a series of evading labor laws, taxes, insurance, social security, immigration laws etc. This black-market economy makes it difficult for the government to identify groups that need help.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Su Hong 2.0? Former waiter reopens Chinese standby under new name in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 9 comments | 5,993 views

What gives you hope?
By Sherry Listgarten | 9 comments | 2,878 views

Living as Roommates? Not Having Much Sex?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,852 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Voice readers and the Wakerly, Packard and Hewlett foundations contributed a total of $72,000.