How to hire a day laborer?
December 12, 2005 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Day laborers. You know, the guys hanging around Home Depot (or Chavez Street in San Francisco) waiting for work. What's the protocol for hiring them for a day? What's the going rate? There's got to be a lunch break, but they don't seem to be carring lunch. Besides being paid in cash, what else is expected? If your Spanish is muy malo like mine, what do I need to know? How do I choose? Does anyone here have any experience in hiring a day laborer?
posted by kk to Work & Money (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you aware of the labor laws concerning these types of hiring situations? Worker's Comp, Social Security (and other payroll tax stuff), etc? Check with your lawyer before you approach anyone to find out what your rights and obligations are when hiring someone as a day laborer.

There are agencies all over the country that can (might) protect you from some of these interesting things.

Beyond that, I don't have the answers you seem to want.
posted by bilabial at 10:45 AM on December 12, 2005

You obviously could get away with doing less, but I think that $10-$15/hour is the right thing to do. You treat them fairly and you'll get good work. My wife and I hired a couple of laborers to help with a big project we were doing in our backyard. I generally buy or make them lunch - whatever I do for myself.

One thing you should do is consider finding a home depot or whatever where there is a "day laborers center" - usually run by a nonprofit who does training on safety and provides some minimal amount of protection for the workers. In our case, we drove a little further to find one where we could hire them out of the center, rather than just off the corner. It was helpful too because, if you're like me you'd rather do it in a more organized fashion than have to pick between a group of people yelling at you from the corner.
posted by krudiger at 10:53 AM on December 12, 2005

What's the going rate?

The going rate should be exactly what you'd pay anyone else to do the work. Unless you were asking about a specific job and forgot to mention it.
posted by deadfather at 10:57 AM on December 12, 2005

Best answer: In San Francisco, you should contact the Day Labor program who will be able to answer your questions.
posted by vacapinta at 10:57 AM on December 12, 2005

Best answer: Here is a link to a list of worker centers that might be helpful.
posted by krudiger at 11:04 AM on December 12, 2005

When my housemate hired day laborers, she went through an org. called the Millionaire Club which set the minimum hourly wage as $10, plus half hour lunch (unpaid), and access to water and bathrooms.

She paid them $12 an hour and bought them lunch (just McDonald's), and essentially treated them as decent human beings. Word got around, and the next time she needed to hire people, plenty of guys were eager to work for her.
posted by luneray at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2005

Also, is the "Mexican" tag really necessary? At the least, please understand that not all Spanish speakers appreciate being lumped together as "Mexicans."
posted by deadfather at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2005

i guess there's lots of racial context here i don't get, but what i've done is describe the work that needs doing and ask how much they charge (in my case just for help moving stuff, so it was a couple of men and a beat-up lorry). seems to me like they might speak enough english for that to be possible anyway (although i've done it in spanish, living/hiring in a spanish speaking country etc). i probably paid about 50 dollars for a couple of hours work, two people including vehicle. i'd have thought they'd expect more in the usa.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:06 AM on December 12, 2005

The going rate should be exactly what you'd pay anyone else to do the work.

Cool, so there's no such thing as wage differentials for things like skill, experience, reputation, accountability, speaking English, etc.? I'm all for treating people fairly, and you can live in your utopian classless society if you want, but the rest of us are in the real world and there's a very real reason why you hire day laborers.
posted by trevyn at 11:18 AM on December 12, 2005

Just park, get out, and talk to some of the guys. That's what I did (I didn't end up hiring any, but I talked to a bunch of them, and they were all super cool, and used to doing seriously hard work for cheap - I just wanted them to help me move some furniture, and they seemed thrilled).
posted by iamck at 11:26 AM on December 12, 2005

trevyn: Sure there is variance; I was making the point that there isn't one rate for all day laborers, which is what the OP seemed to assume.
posted by deadfather at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2005

You realize that hiring "the guys that hang around home depot" is potentially illegal right? You also realize that this is a public forum and that anybody could be reading this, right? You wouldn't ask for advice on soliciting a prostitute on AxeMe, why this?

My advice is to go to a day-labor agency and treat the workers you hire with respect and dignity like human beings. Buy them some sandwiches, maybe even a couple of beers at the end of the job.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:37 AM on December 12, 2005

You wouldn't ask for advice on soliciting a prostitute on AxeMe, why this?

Well, actually...
posted by deadfather at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2005

Well, actually...

From the link:

I've decided to hire a prostitute. How should I best go about this to have a reasonably good, safe time? Does cost make a big difference? I'm in London.

Prostitution is legal (within certain restrictions) in the UK. Hiring undocumented aliens remains illegal in California.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:56 AM on December 12, 2005

I second the Day Labor Program in SF. I've never hired anyone from their, but the LCRC is a great organization. I have several friends who've volunteered there.

More demand at the Day Labor program = safer employment conditions for more Day Laborers.
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2005

Another complaint on the 'Mexican' tag: depending on where you are in the country, day laborers can be from any legal or non-legal immigrant group. Here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, you will find Vietnamese, Hmong and Somali immigrants looking for day-labor work.
posted by nathan_teske at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2005

seems to me it would be useful if someone can explain how you tell the difference between legal and illegal workers. is there a standard piece of paper?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:30 PM on December 12, 2005

Why encourage what is generally an illegal activity? In modern sue-happy America, the last thing that I would want to do is pick up some day laborers from Home Depot, especially if one of them got injured on the job site somehow. You're just asking for a whole world of trouble.
posted by drstein at 12:37 PM on December 12, 2005

Legal workers are people legally in the US; US citizens, lawful permanent residents or documented non-imigrants with permission to work from the Federal government. This can tell you more Andrew Cooke.

If you hire an agency to send guys over you pass the responsibility off to the agency for collecting those materials.

I'm not trying to come off as anal, but when posting on a public forum about potentially illegal activity in the future it might be a good idea for posters to ask anonymously or for the question to be carefully worded so as not to appear as if the poster is soliciting advice on how to commit illegal acts. Just looking out for Mr. Kelly, the poster, here.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:05 PM on December 12, 2005

If your spanish is crap you show up and express what you're looking for in english. Workers who speak it can negotiate with you, those who can't, can't. If you're at an actual laborer center you'll get a swarm of people around you once it's clear you're hiring, simply state what you need done, how many people you need, what you'll pay and when you'll bring them back. If your offer sucks they'll decline it.

You're overthinking the lunch thing. They're people working on pickup jobs - if they're not carrying it's because they're going to either eat what you offer them or go hungry till the end of their day.

I shall leave the moralizing to those clearly far holier than me.
posted by phearlez at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2005

In Chapel Hill, there was a certain area where day laborers, many of whom were mexican, hung out. It was customary to go fairly early in the morning (7-8) and bargain for services and prices. I doubt the language barrier will be much of a problem, unless you have very specific tasks that need to be accomplished. As for a going rate, I would suggest something around minimum wage. Bear in mind the going rate for unskilled labor in Mexico is somewhere around $1/hour, so even minimum wage is an increase.

Off Topic: I'm a huge fan of Cool Tools. Keep up the good work.
posted by matkline at 1:33 PM on December 12, 2005

The general view that this is "illegal" doesn't seem convincing to me. The form in question is an I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification). Quoting from the IRS Publication on Household Employees: "When you hire a household employee to work for you on a regular basis, you and the employee must complete the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. "

I read that to say that if you hire someone for the day (that is to say, not on a regular basis), you have no obligation to confirm their legal work status. For it to be a crime you would need to "knowingly" hire an illegal worker.

Do you have an I-9 for that kid that cut your grass or babysat your children?
posted by Lame_username at 1:41 PM on December 12, 2005

Do you have an I-9 for that kid that cut your grass or babysat your children?

No. But it is still illegal to hire someone who does not have permission to work in the US. Let's face it, you don't see a whole heck of a lot of people being caught for it, but it still doesn't make it a legal practice. It is illegal to speed. It is illegal to litter. It is illegal to smoke pot. You may or may not be able to get away with those crimes, but posting for advice about them on a public forum and additionally providing directions to your house is probably not the best thing in the world to do, nor is it a great idea to advise people on a public forum how to commit those acts, right?
posted by Pollomacho at 2:03 PM on December 12, 2005

If you want to get anal about the law, the only obligation the law imposes on employers is that they check to see if their employees have documentation that shows they have a right to work. This would be either proof of citizenship / permenant resident alien status (green card) OR a temporary work visa (of which there are many types).

These documents are easily forged. An acceptable copy of a work visa can be had for $20-$50. It is NOT an employer's obligation to check on the validity of these documents - this was a concession to the farm industry in the last set of immigration laws. Therefore, if you feel the need to actually CYA, ask for documents - but it won't prove a damn thing, really.

Summation: Pollomacho's technically wrong - it's only illegal to hire someone you KNOW does not have permission to work. Employing those with forged documents, even if you think they're forged, it technically legal.

Summation of the summation: Current immigration law on this topic is ineffective and illogical - you are best to disregard it altogether.
posted by thewittyname at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2005

Feel free to discount your offer based on skills, tools, etc, but please don't discount it because the workers are poor, undocumented, have limited choices and have no recourse to standard U.S. worker protections. This is exploitation.

In other words, what deadfather said up top.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:53 PM on December 12, 2005

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