Over the past few weeks the US Border Patrol and Riverside County California police have been the target of allegations that they engaged in racial profiling and set a quota for immigration arrests. Among other places, law enforcement officers swept an informal day labor site, making several arrests. These actions, and many of the news stories reporting them, help reinforce the stereotype that day laborer is an immigration issue, and nothing more.
To call it a stereotype is of course to suggest that it is not completely true. There's no denying that many day laborers lack documentation to remain in the US legally. But a comprehensive survey of thousands of day laborers across the US revealed that fully 1/4 of them are legal residents. Day labor is not just about immigration policy, it also about labor, land use, and simple economics.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Sat, 02/07/2009 - 5:54pm.
Nikhil Agrawal is a double major in Biochemisty and Economics while Sumit Agarwal is an Economics Major at Washington University in St Louis. They are both also pre-med but they became involved in their campus's Habitat for Humanity chapter and that helped them learn a lot about poverty alleviation. This experience germinated in them an interest in microfinancing and small scale business. They came upon openair.org and our research and discovered in us potential collaborators to help the entrepreneurial spirit flourish in St Louis.
They are working with me and City officials to develop a new public market in St Louis and this blog will follow their efforts!
Thus far they have read some recent work done by Gregg Kettles and myself and recently published in Zoning Practice, they've read my work on the benefits of public markets (Economic Development Quarterly 1995) and they've read Jennifer Ball's work on Street Vendors (Planning Advisory Service report).
They are engaging in some basic research regarding the foot traffic in the park they've targeted for a market (http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/parks_div/lucas.html) and they're engaging with city officials - let's see what happens next!
Good luck to Nikhil and Sumit (same last name, but not related)!!
Submitted by Alfonso Morales on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 8:57pm.
Los Angeles, California has long suffered from an image that it is car-friendly, pedestrian hostile place. There is plenty of irony in this. The balmy climate draws one outside, but there's no place you'd want to walk to once you get there. Or so the story goes. Downtown redevelopment during the car crazy 1950s and 60s encouraged this view. Streets were widened to speed automobile traffic, while sidewalks remained narrow afterthoughts.
This week the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved new design standards for downtown. Instead of requiring developers to widen streets, they'll be asked to widen sidewalks. According to the Downtown Design Guide published by the Urban Design Studio of the L.A. Department of City Planning, the extra sidewalk space is intended for outdoor dining and "commercial activity." http://urbandesignla.com/downtown_guidelines.htmp. graphic at 16.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 11:51pm.
Swap meets, or flea markets, have in recent times enjoyed a reputation as a place where one can find a good deal on collectibles, art, and antiques. Thanks to television programs like Antiques Roadshow, swap meets have become a kind of high-end retailer in outdoor markets. The recession has not only changed that, but also drawn attention to the flexibility of swap meets and open air markets generally.
Last week Los Angeles' public television station, KCET, broadcast a story on swap meets as part of its program, "SoCal Connected." Here's the link: http://kcet.org/socal/2008/12/thrift-economy.html
KCET Producer Vicki Curry told the story of how swap meets are feeling the effects of the economic downturn. People who have lost jobs have cut back on many things, including making payments for storage units, packed to the brim with goods purchased during good times. Units on which rent is not paid are subject to "foreclosure" by the storage unit facility. The units are opened and the contents auctioned to eager buyers. These buyers turn around to resell the items on ebay, at garage sales, and swap meets. These merchants of second hand goods have their finger on the economic pulse of America. High end merchandise is not moving much. Low end necessities are.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 12:44pm.
News media stories report that a decline in construction activity across the US has made life for day laborers, which was already hard in good times, even harder still. Many laborers have hit the road, going to places like Texas, that have not felt quite so much pain as the rest of the country. This mobility of day labor is nothing new-- it is one example of the flexibility of day labor, which helps explain its persistence as a labor market phenomenon.
But this mobility also highlights the difficulty of organizing day laborers to enable them to protect their common interests. Claims by individual day laborers that an employer has underpaid him or failed to pay him at all are sometimes abandoned. The stakes are too low to make it economic for an attorney to be hired to file suit. If an employer mistreats a number of day laborers in this way, the stakes are much higher. One attorney might represent a number of day laborers against a single defendant, and the higher stakes would justify the costs of hiring an attorney to take on this "collective action" or "class action."
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Thu, 12/04/2008 - 12:41am.