Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Day Labor Office
- Open 6 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday
Las Vegas office: 486-3441
1001 N. A. St.
- Sparks office: 775-687-6899
420 Galletti Way
Beyond the Sun
Every morning, Monday through Friday, about three dozen people crowd into a dimly lit room, sit down in front of a small television with the news or a movie showing and hope their name is called.
Those who come to the state-run Day Labor Office near Washington Avenue and Interstate 15 are required to register around 6 a.m. While they may be groggy at that time, they move quickly when the work gets there — the retirees who need landscaping, the families who are moving and the contractors who could use some help with a renovation.
The short-term work helps pay the bills while the long-term hope is that a one-, two- or three-day job leads to permanent employment.
The office opened 15 years ago. But with the poor economy, administrators have seen an increase in clients at the Day Labor Office and have increased efforts to let employers and the unemployed know of the resource. Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, which runs the facility, recently changed the name from Casual Labor Office to match the more commonplace term. There is also a similar resource in Sparks.
Lester Ratleff, Las Vegas Day Labor Office manager, said some of the workers have received full-time job offers after they became known to an employer through the office.
“Every week we get skilled laborers coming in who have been laid off and need work,” Ratleff said. “Some of the people who register with us are homeless or near the borderlines of becoming homeless. Well, if you are willing to work, we have jobs and can help. I’d say we’ve seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in the number of people we see since the start of the downturn.”
Las Vegas Day Labor Office
Abel Osuna heads to the office before daylight three days a week. The other two days a week, he canvasses the streets looking for full-time work.
On Thursday he was tapped for a landscaping and pipe-laying job that lasted two days. He worked 16 hours at $12 per hour.
A glazier by trade, Osuna said he is picking up new skills from the odd jobs he does.
“It really works for everyone,” said Osuna, 34. “We help people out who need some extra workers for a day or two, and at the same time we might learn a trade or new skill. The employers are good; they will give us tips and buy us lunch. We work hard for them, they end up being happy and then we can get recommendations.”
The jobs are varied and laborers are hired for moving, construction, landscaping and other tasks. Each laborer registers at the office. The office administration keeps track of the individual’s job skills to match the right workers with each job. For jobs that do not require a specific skill, a lottery system is used. The majority of job seekers are male, but women have found seasonal housekeeping work and other jobs, Ratleff said.
“With the foreclosure crisis, we’ve had a lot of guys hired to clean up yards and homes that have been abandoned,” Ratleff said. “We also will work with the set-up and tear-down at conventions.”
Sparks Day Labor Office
On average, about seven or eight people get jobs on any given day at the Las Vegas office, according to Ratleff, but there are also big jobs when up to 30 laborers may be hired for three days of work.
“The economy has been so different recently, with a lot of employers only looking for temporary workers,” said Ron Fletcher, chief of operations for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. “The office gives people who may be struggling, who maybe were laid off, (the opportunity) to make some cash each day and supplement their income from other sources.”
The office is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m Monday through Friday. A staff member works specifically with veterans, and laborers can be scheduled in advance for jobs on weekends. The employer works out pay with the worker directly, but most offer between $10 and $15 per hour, workers and office administrators said. The Day Labor Office is a free service provided by the state. Employers and laborers work out who, if anyone, will cover insurance and file the appropriate tax forms. Employers work out the requirements of specific jobs with the laborers.
State regulations require that anyone seeking employment at the Day Labor Office show proof of legal eligibility to work, and many day laborers still congregate at lumber yards, landscaping businesses and other construction and home-improvement establishments.
Osuna said he had worked on demolition jobs, laying tile, installing drywall and pouring concrete, all skills he had little experience with before coming to the office. He moved in January to Las Vegas with his wife, who is a real estate agent, and three children from Los Angeles. He has family in the area and came to Las Vegas for four months in 2011 to test the market, which is when he found the Day Labor Office. His wife found a job, and Osuna made the move knowing he could get day labor while he looked for something more permanent.
“For me it’s not just about the extra money that pays for gas and other things. It’s more about helping me make contacts,” Osuna said. “It opens doors to other people and opportunities. I’ve been meeting great people through the office who have been really helpful, and meanwhile I’m picking up skills.”
The Las Vegas Day Labor Office is at 1001 N. A St. and can be reached at 486-3441. The Sparks office is at 420 Galletti Way and can be reached at 775-687-6899.