Amid shades of Great Recession, day laborers struggle to find work amid coronavirus

By Ruben Vives

March 30, 2020

Gabriel Reyes was $600 short of his $1,800 monthly rent and April was around the corner. The day laborer was so desperate for a job he created a cardboard sign that listed his welding skills and cellphone number.

“I figure this way they know what I do since there’s so many of us out here,” he said.

For a month, the husband and father of three had been soliciting work in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Paramount. In his pockets, he carried little pieces of paper with his name and number to give to potential employers. He couldn’t even calculate how many he had passed out.

“I’ve only managed to earn $40,” Reyes said. “I don’t know if the landlord will give us a break.”

The economic fallout of the novel coronavirus has affected almost every major industry sector of the United States. More than 3.3 million people in the country have filed first-time jobless benefit claims.

But if there’s a constant of economic crises, it’s that low-wage earners — especially black and Latino workers — tend to take the biggest hits. In the hierarchy of labor in America, you don’t get much more tenuous than the humble day laborer, whose livelihood often depends on a barometer of economic optimism.

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