Chandler ban thins gathering of laborers

The Arizona Republic
Sept. 16, 2005

Edythe Jensen


Crowds of day laborers appear to be dwindling during the first days of a Chandler parking and stopping ban designed to move morning throngs of workers off Arizona Avenue.

At 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, the third day of the crackdown, fewer than 25 job seekers stood along the road, and most were gathered in a Circle K parking lot across the street from a private day labor center. Eleven men waited in the center's fenced, shaded area for pickup.

Before this week, between 50 and 100 men lined the thoroughfare most weekday mornings.

Until Sept. 26, police are issuing warnings to drivers who ignore the 100 new signs that were installed over the weekend. The signs state a new prohibition against stopping and parking between 4 and 9 a.m. along targeted streets, which include Arizona Avenue between Chandler Boulevard and Pecos Road and some side streets.

Officers gave out 25 warnings Monday, 23 Tuesday and 12 Wednesday, police spokesman Mark Franzen said. Most went to motorists who made illegal stops, but a few were placed on illegally parked cars, he said.

All were in English and Spanish and contained maps of no-stopping streets. The push targets drivers who pick up workers, not the job seekers.

Starting Sept. 26, violators will receive citations that carry $25 fines.

"It is just Day 3, and getting the information out has made an impact" reducing labor pickups on Arizona Avenue, city spokeswoman Nachie Marquez said. "We hope the motoring public will start using the day-labor center."

Use of the privately funded center at 501 S. Arizona Ave. hasn't increased significantly this week, although workers are congregating closer to the facility, said Leah Powell, assistant to the city manager. However, job seekers aren't moving to other streets as officials feared, and some are likely making arrangements with employers to be picked up at their homes, she said.

"There was an unbelievably small number of workers out there Tuesday morning," said Becky Jackson, president and CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has sought city action, and Jackson, who has announced she is running for City Council, has said the laborers along the city's main thoroughfare could hurt downtown businesses and Chandler's image.

Circle K spokeswoman Diane Ketterhagen said company officials "respectfully decline comment" on the Chandler day labor issue.

Bea Rios, an employee at Pep Boys at 400 S. Arizona Ave., said laborers continue to gather in front of the auto parts store, although none was there Wednesday morning.

Mary Polanco-Gerlach, a member of the city's Human Relations Commission, which recommended the stopping ban and other measures, said it would likely take more convincing to get workers to use the labor center. "I hope they don't get too punitive," she said.

Workers on Wednesday did not want to discuss the issue, but have told her in the past they believe they have to stand along the street to demonstrate their willingness and fitness for work. They also say contractors avoid the day labor center because vehicle license numbers are recorded there, Polanco-Gerlach said.