New Rules for Home Improvement Stores in Los Angeles
By Gerri Elder
The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously approved an ordinance that will require home improvement stores to deal with day laborers who gather outside to look for work.
The new law in Los Angeles could require stores such as Lowes and Home Depot to construct day-labor centers to provide shelter, drinking water, restrooms and trash cans at new and renovated stores.
The ordinance was first proposed by Councilman Bernard C. Parks four years ago. The ordinance mandates that the big box stores obtain conditional-use permits. These permits could in turn require them to provide facilities for day laborers.
Stores that make major renovations or additions could also be subject to the new law. Each newly-built and renovated store will be evaluated individually for compliance with the law.
Parks says that this ordinance is just the beginning and that he plans to address all existing home improvement stores next. He believes that these home improvement stores need to be held accountable for the safety of the day laborers that they attract.
During the vote on the ordinance, dozens of day laborers were present in the council chambers. The unanimous vote on the measure prompted a standing ovation by them, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ordinance had been debated and negotiated for years among city leaders, Home Depot officials and day laborer advocates. There were disagreements and uncertainty over who should actually be responsible for public safety and nuisance issues created by the day laborers gathering in the parking lots and on the sidewalks near the stores.
Day laborers are generally people who are unemployed and as such, usually have no health insurance. When contractors troll home improvement store parking lots each morning looking for workers, they are not hiring employees.
There are no job interviews and the arrangement is casual. The day laborers who get work are not covered by Workers' Compensation insurance. If they are injured while working, the contractors who hired them often look the other way and take no responsibility for the injuries.
While the new law in Los Angeles will not protect day laborers from work-related injuries, it will make their search for work safer and more comfortable.
Other cities around the country have also addressed the issue of day laborers. In some areas, there are restrictions as to where day laborers can gather. In other places, hiring halls have been built specifically for the day laborers.
Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti said that the new law should set an example for the rest of the nation.
The city currently has eight day-labor centers that are run by nonprofit organizations. Advocates for day laborers say that the new law will make it easier for new centers to be built at the big-box stores.
Not everyone is pleased with the new day laborer law in Los Angeles. Home Depot officials believe that is it unfair to place the weight of managing day laborers on their shoulders.
The president of the Minuteman Project was also quick to express his disgust. Marvin Stewart equated the new law with the city giving the nod to illegal immigration. However, experts who have studied the issue say that it is not an immigration issue, and is instead a labor market issue.