My Experiences With Day Labor Employment Agencies

This post is pretty random, but something that I had thought about recently. Several years ago, I was having difficulty finding steady employment.  I looked everywhere, for any type of job.  My thinking at the time was, “A job is a job”.  So, I didn’t have any specific preferences for the type of work that I would be willing to do.

I happened to have a conversation with a friend about places where I could find work fairly fast.  He recommended a few day labor employment agencies.  I won’t call out any particular company names, since I am not trying to demonize any of them.  A couple of names probably pop into your mind when I say “day labor”, so you probably know which companies I am talking about without me having to call out names.

Well, I visited about three different agencies over a period of about one month.  Let me tell you, I didn’t get a very positive impression of some of the types of people that do work for these companies.  I am not saying that the people that work for these places are bad or beneath me.  Some of the people are actually normal and were just down on their luck and desperate for work, like myself.  But, the majority of the people that show up for work seemed transient or even shady.

At one of the companies, I walked through the doors and then slowly backed out.  As soon as I cast my eyes upon the crowd that was there, I had a bad feeling about it.  Although I try not to be judgmental of others, most of the people there looked and acted like recovering crack heads and alcoholics.  I was liked “Hell motherf%%kin no!”

So, a few days later, I got up at around 4 a.m. and arrived at a different day labor employment agency.  I arrived on location around 5:30 a.m. in the morning.  The management at these companies will tell prospective employees that they get their best shot at landing a gig, by arriving very early.  When I arrived the place was not open, but there were already about 20-30 people waiting.  The business didn’t open until 6 a.m., so we had to wait roughly half an hour.

As with most of these types of employment agencies that I visited, there was a bizarre mix of people present.  People from all walks of life, were waiting for the opportunity to get some work.  Most of the people were men, with only a few women.  More than half of them appeared to be people on the margins of society, like recovering dope fiends, the homeless, possible ex-offenders, and the mentally ill.

There was this one man out there waiting who started asking me some stupid questions.  He was trying to feel me out and learn whether I had a boyfriend.  He caught me off guard by offering to buy me a loaf of bread.  He must have figured out that I was in a real financial bind, since I was there searching for work.  I just told him to mind his own business and walked away from him.  This was someone that I would never consider dating.

One dude, who was outside waiting for work, spent the better part of 15 minutes, swearing, insulting others,  trying to provoke other people to fight. It was apparent that this man was either possessed by a demonic force, psychotic, or inebriated.  If I weren’t so desperate for work, I probably would have done a 180 and hauled ass.  I silently prayed to myself for God to protect me in the midst of nutcases.  I decided to suck it up and take my place in line.

One thing that sets day labor employment agencies apart from others, is that the jobs aren’t usually long-term assignments.  Workers may be able to land a LOW PAYING job for a few days or a few weeks.  Also, jobs are doled out on a first-come, first served basis.  Plus, workers get paid the same day that they complete their work.  This makes it very attractive to those in desperate need of cash.  The agencies can assign a variety of tasks to workers, but the type of work available normally falls under the categories of “skilled and unskilled manual labor” (construction work, cleaning, etc.).

I filled out an application, put my name on the sign in sheet, then sat and waited for my name to be called for a work assignment.  From early on, most of the assignments were given away to the regulars.  I sat around and waited about 6 hours for available work.   During that time, I got to know a few of the other people that were there waiting for work.

Their stories were varied and interesting.  One man that I talked to, came originally from New York with the hopes and promise of a better job.  The job that he was promised, fell through and he ended up homeless and destitute.  The thing that struck me about him, was his resilience and seemingly good nature in the face of adversity.

He was the person that put me up on the game there.  He told me that I was probably wasting my time there looking for work, and referred me to some other places where I might be able to find work more suitable for me.  The game was that, “the favorites” usually got first dibs on jobs, then everyone else got what was left over, on a first-come, first served basis.

To make a long story short,  I continued to visit this day labor agency, every day for the next three weeks.  I was not offered a job once.  My conclusion was that it was a waste of my time, so I stopped going there.  I am not advising anyone to NOT go to these places to seek work.  There are people that can luck up and find a good long-term, lucrative hustle through day labor agencies.   I am saying that these types of places aren’t for everyone, especially not me.

© Copyright 2014 Susan Broadbelt