Post 1: Why Centreville Labor Resource Center is such an interesting place?

This is the first in an eight part series of a blog on the work of the Institute for Immigration Research in collaboration with the Centreville Labor Resource Center (CLRC) to develop an in-depth picture of immigrant day laborers in the United States. Day laborers who attend the CLRC,, work primarily during the day and do not necessary work at any particular trade.

The information on this blog is based on data collected by researcher Louise Puck, who over this past summer carried out qualitative research at the Centreville Labor Resource Center.  The foundation of the research was built on interviews consisting of a brief narrative followed by semi-structured questions.  The aim of the study was to examine the value of the skills the day laborers bring from their home countries, the impact of their social network, and the importance of acquiring English language skills and vocational skills to obtain employment. The objective was to find out if those factors impact the day laborers’ success in becoming active participants in the Northern Virginia labor force. It was decided to reach the day laborers at the CLRC, as the goal was to meet day laborers, who were actively pursuing employment. The interviewed day laborers are from Guatemala with the exception of one El Salvadorian.

The Centreville Labor Resource Center, located in Centreville, Virginia just off Route 29, is a project that began in 2011 by the Centreville Immigration Forum, a 501(c)3 organization. Funded entirely by public grants and donations, the CLRC is a service that provides day laborers to Centreville, Fairfax, Clifton and surrounding counties in Northern Virginia. George Mason University graduate Molly Maddra-Santiago serves as Director of the CLRC, having been a part of the Centre from its beginning in 2011. Alongside her is Marley Pulido, the Center’s Organizer, as well as a bevy of volunteers.

Director of the CLRC, Molly Maddra-Santiago.
Director of the CLRC, Molly Maddra-Santiago.
Organizer, Marley Pulido

The primary purpose of the Centreville Labour Resource Center is  to support a fair market for day laborers, where no wage theft takes place and to end a sub-wage street-side hiring system, which can undercut the pay of the day laborers.

Additionally, the CLRC is a unique place, because it offers day laborers several different services that they might not find anywhere else: First, the center acts as an employment facilitator by providing a platform where employers and day laborers can connect. Small contractors come in to get the temporary workers with the skills they need in a safe location.  The day laborers are protected by a contract signed by employers guaranteeing fair work conditions. Second, the CLRC also ensures worker security and safety through independent groups such as La Comision, which is made up of a group of day laborers that have decided to combat wage theft in Centreville using community meetings and strategic organizing.

We learned through the interviews that the day laborers attending the CLRC possess a diverse skillset that enables them to carry out most general labor jobs such as landscaping and moving and they are often able to work as painters, roofers, cooks, carpenters, bricklayers, flooring specialists, and more. The day laborers negotiate their own pay and they generally request $12-$18/hour for regular labor and yard work and $15-$18/hour for more specialized jobs such as plumbing, electricity and construction. All pay is given directly to the workers; the CLRC does not charge any fees for the employer or the worker.

Secondly,  the CLRC offers a wide array of vocational classes and English classes to support the day laborers job prospects. Some of these classes are; painting, basic ESOL, and training sessions for workplace safety. Vocational trainings are run as temporary courses all year. This Fall they are offering Spanish literacy, basic ESOL, and potentially an electricity class.

Artwork created by patrons at the CLRC.

Lastly, the Center also functions as a community center where the day laborers meet to socialize and participate in social events such as a Fourth of July picnic or soccer tournaments etc. Additionally, the countries where many day laborers hail from are kept close to their hearts through shared group activities. El Grupo Cultural is a Hispanic/Guatemalan/Mayan cultural appreciation group. They perform folkloric and contemporary Guatemalan dances and sing pop songs. They serve as cultural ambassadors of their home nations in Centreville.

A few other CLRC initiates are the ‘Tool sharing program” and The Centreville Garden Box  . The tool sharing program encourages employers and homeowners without their own equipment to use tools in the CLRC’s inventory for a refundable  deposit. Workers also have access to woodworking equipment that allows them to be trained for certain labor specialities in-house.

The Centreville Garden Box is another great initiative started by CLRC workers. In this project the day laborers build good quality and eco-friendly garden boxes. The boxes are designed with input and collaboration of the CLRC workers. The project provides the day laborers with an excellent way to learn and improve their carpentry skills and workplace safety and they are able to train each other while producing the boxes.

flower box
A flower box produced by CLRC workers. © CLRC

This was an overview of  some of the amazing work undertaken and supported by the Centreville Labor Resource Center. Stay tuned for the next post where we will examine the reasons why the day laborers, in this case the Guatemalans, decide to migrate to the US.


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