Guerneville hopes to build on success of day labor center

  • The new Guerneville Day Labor center is presently located on a picnic bench in the town park and ride lot, but center organizer Suzanna Mayo, far right, hopes to find a permanent facility.

The Guerneville Day Labor Center consists of a picnic table and two portable toilets sitting at a commuter parking lot.

But its organizers hope it is the start of a compromise to keep day-laborers away from tourist destinations and to establish a permanent hiring center to benefit those seeking work in the lower Russian River area.

The center opened this winter and has signed up more than two dozen workers to take various skilled and unskilled jobs, its lead organizer said.

Later this month, the center?s members and west Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo will meet with river residents to speak about the issues surrounding day laborers.

?My hope for this gathering of sorts is to bring the people together around this issue ... to find a solution, much as Graton did a few years back,? Carrillo said.

Other organizers previously have established day labor centers in Graton, Healdsburg and Fulton. The Fulton and Guerneville centers remain little more than tables by the side of the road, but Graton and Healdsburg have structures where workers can get out of the rain and sun.

For years, day laborers in Guerneville seeking work have congregated near a convenience store on a street corner along the town?s main business strip. Some business people think the mostly male laborers can hurt businesses that rely largely on tourism.

?I don?t think that?s a good place to have day laborers soliciting for work,? said Dax Berg, owner of the Sonoma Nesting Co., an antiques, art and furnishings store.

He called the labor center ?a wonderful solution? because ?it shows we?re working together as a community.?

When the Graton organizing effort began in 2004, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement called it illegal to employ a person who is not authorized to work in the United States.

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