Day labor site opens in northeast Portland

Day labor site opens in northeast Portland »Play Video
A lone protester sits in the driveway of the day labor site on Monday afternoon.
PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland's controversial city-supported day labor hiring site opened early Monday morning at the corner of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northeast Everett Street.

Workers trickled into the fenced area as the site opened at 6 a.m. Two people played music from the deck of the mobile office that sat on the fenced-in lot.

A $200,000 grant from the Portland City Council was used to start the project. Portland Mayor Tom Potter has said he supports the project.

Site supporters from the group VOZ said the day labor site is intended to protect workers from employers who have denied wages, not given breaks or were otherwise victimized their employees.

Josie Majuri, a VOZ member, also said the site would protect workers from harassment, saying she had heard stories of racial epithets being yelled at workers as they waited for work on a nearby corner in the past.

Romeo Sosa, Executive Director of VOZ, said the site was not just for Latino workers and that he had seen workers from many ethnicities use the station.

Site operators say they are looking to charge $10 an hour for general labor jobs and more for skilled positions.

Prospective employers can call ahead to the site and request workers. But Monday morning, a group of workers gathered at a corner close to the site where workers have gathered in the past and were soon picked up for work.

People who come to the new day labor site are not being required to show identification or proof of citizenship in order to work.

That aspect does not sit well with many nearby business owners, who have complained that the site is a de facto hiring station for people who are in the United States illegally.

Monday afternoon, one man sat in protest in the driveway leading to the site, holding a sign that simply said "no."

The day labor site is expected to operate from 6 a.m. until noon Monday through Saturday.