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Gari-News » Day by Day, Laborers Seek Work on West Side
Jun 18, 2004

Berkeley Daily Planet

The day laborers gather on Berkeley’s Hearst corridor early in the morning, hours before most of the high-priced shops and trendy cafes in the nearby Fourth Street commercial district open for business. The first to arrive is Hector Castillo, a 51-year old Honduran who sleeps in his car on a nearby side street.
Hoping to catch an early job with one of the small building contractors or homeowners who cruise the corridor searching for cheap temporary labor, Castillo stations himself near the Truitt & White lumberyard at Second and Hearst.

Castillo, a round-faced, friendly man wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, is looking for a small room to sleep and shower in, but says he can’t afford to pay rent because he goes to the Western Union office each week to send most of his earnings home to his wife and nine children in Honduras. He gets by for now living in his car.

“My life is on the street, looking for work,? he said.

Castillo is one of a growing number of day laborers (called jornaleros in Spanish)—mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, many undocumented—who seek work each day on Hearst Avenue in West Berkeley. Faced with declining job opportunities, low wages, and frequent abuse by unscrupulous employers, they struggle to survive on the margins of the economy.

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