During today’s summit on day labor issues at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), several speakers cited the region’s strong economy as a major factor in creating the opportunities that attract day laborers to the area.
Local officials from throughout metropolitan Washington joined day labor center administrators, human services providers, and local businesspeople to discuss what to do about the hundreds of day laborers that gather in dozens of unofficial sites throughout the region. Organizers believed it was the first time nationally that the day labor issue has been discussed at the regional level.
“So long as the local economy continues to grow—and we believe it will—more job opportunities are going to be created that will attract additional day laborers to this region,” said Walter Tejada, Arlington County Board Member and Chairman of COG’s Human Services Policy Committee. “This challenge is only going to get bigger.”
COG forecasts that the region will gain 2.1 million new residents and 1.4 million new jobs by 2030.
“This is a situation where there are no bad guys,” said Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter. “There were two groups of people, store owners and day laborers, both trying to make a living, but they were coming into conflict with each other.” Porter said that establishing an official site in Takoma Park has satisfied both parties and the local community because it promotes a healthy and safe business area.
Some participants urged COG to educate the public on the complicated issue and to encourage local jurisdictions to create organized day labor centers. Others advocated a broader human services focus, such as the creation of family support centers that would provide employment and health services.
Greenbelt Mayor Judith Davis, Herndon Mayor Michael O’Reilly, Montgomery County Council President Tom Perez, Prince George’s County Council Members Will Campos and Camille Exum, Rockville Council Member Robert Dorsey, and Takoma Park Council Member Terry Seamens were some of the other leaders that joined in the regional conversation.
Mayors Porter and O'Reilly