A Southern accent on day laborers: Stereotypes, language skills and the lowest price come into play as black Americans and Latino immigrants compete on an Atlanta street – Los Angeles Times
A Southern accent on day laborers: Stereotypes, language skills and the lowest price come into play as black Americans and Latino immigrants compete on an Atlanta street.
December 28, 2007
Outside the Home Depot on Ponce de Leon Avenue, no one engages in theoretical debates about whether illegal immigrants are competing for jobs with Americans.
Here, the competition unfolds whenever a truck pulls into the parking lot, its driver looking for day laborers.
On any given day, about half of the 30 or so men waiting to pounce on those trucks are Latinos, many of them undocumented. But the rest are African American men like Sam Gibbs. One chilly afternoon, Gibbs, 47, sprinted like a teenager toward a red pickup, hawking his services to two black men inside.
“Take a brother with you!” Gibbs pleaded. “I’m from South Carolina!” He had beaten out a sizable group of Latinos who soon surrounded the truck.
“Hold on guys,” the driver announced. “I need a drywall finisher.” He said he would pay $9 an hour.
Gibbs backed away. The Latinos began negotiating with the driver, who hired one of them for $12 an hour.
“Drywall finisher — that’s a specialty,” Gibbs muttered as he walked back to his spot on the sidewalk near a Dunkin’ Donuts. “Plus, he was only paying $9 an hour.”
In the Deep South, like the rest of the nation, undocumented Latinos have come to dominate many of the corners and parking lots where day laborers gather. But this region is different because of the high percentage of Americans who still compete with Latino immigrants for such jobs. Although U.S.-born workers make up 7% of the day-labor pool nationwide, they account for nearly 20% in the South, according to a 2006 UCLA study.
Indeed, long before the Southern labor landscape was transformed by a tidal surge of Latin American immigrants, blacks and whites populated the “catch-out corners” in Southern communities, whistling and waving after employers in hopes of “catching out on a job” and pocketing a few tax-free dollars.
Many of the black workers who gather on Ponce de Leon today say that they cannot find regular work. Some have been laid off and some have criminal records or addictions. Others are supplementing a primary paycheck, or prefer to work under the radar, earning wages that are difficult to track. One man said he was trying to avoid court-mandated child support payments that he could not afford.
Read the rest here….