Members of Leadership Mountain View have been busy getting the word out about the many – and little-known – benefits of the city’s dayworker center.
Maria Marroquín, executive director of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View (DWC), said the average worker gets two four-hour jobs per week – not nearly enough to subsist. Of the 80-plus workers who show up on any given day, approximately 30 find employment.
Still, Marroquín said, “We’re doing pretty well.”
That’s because the center serves as more than a clearinghouse for people seeking immediate work. With its various job-training classes, the center’s big-picture approach prepares clients to compete in today’s tough job market.
“We prepare people to fly with their own wings,” Marroquín said.
According to Brian Fong, an El Camino Hospital executive and Leadership Mountain View member involved in dayworker outreach, the center “empowers workers to improve their socioeconomic condition through fair employment and education.”
In addition to job-skills training, Fong said the center offers language classes, computer training, art classes, legal guidance, health-care assistance and community service opportunities.
“The DWC gives back to the community through service projects, which include blood drives, landscaping projects for seniors, volunteering at local schools and knitting blankets for premature babies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital,” he said.
Leadership Mountain View, a program run through the Chamber of Commerce, grooms residents interested in community leadership roles by exposing them to the work of local nonprofit groups. Members choose community projects in which six members at minimum volunteer eight hours a month serving a nonprofit center.
Six members of Leadership Mountain View have been involved in ongoing outreach efforts for the center, which include increasing a Web and social media presence and visiting various community organizations to publicize center benefits.
The group efforts stem from a “Health and Human Services” program day, held in December, during which several Leadership Mountain View students visited the worker center.
“The class was quite impressed with the variety of services/training opportunities that the DWC provides its employees,” Fong said. “The overall impression was that the DWC has the best interests of its employees at heart and is doing its absolute best to empower them with valuable skills that will allow them to succeed. Furthermore, we were very impressed that the DWC engages in several community service projects – a win-win situation for all in the community.”
Providing additional jobs
Leadership Mountain View member Bill Lambert, a trustee in the Mountain View-Whisman School District, got involved at the dayworker center after meeting with Marroquin. The former chemist, now a patent attorney, had been a math and science teacher-volunteer at a local school with a Hispanic population of approximately 70 percent.
“Some of the (students) are unconsciously brilliant,” said Lambert, who has since joined the center’s board. “They just weren’t getting the support or attention of the community.”
Likewise, Lambert was moved by learning that many of the dayworkers had made “great sacrifice” to travel here to help their families. Lambert said many were undocumented workers who lived under constant fear of deportation.
Through his and his team’s outreach efforts, the number of available jobs at the center has risen from approximately 500 to 800 a month. In addition, their outreach to the Mountain View Kiwanis Club resulted in workers helping out at the club’s tree lots and raising $10,000 for the center.
Spreading the word
For group member Armando Espitia, a 14-year officer with the Mountain View Police Department, getting the word out about the worker center also helped reduce some community “fear” of the unknown regarding the dayworkers.
“These people are very motivated, very willing to help,” said Espitia, who himself grew up in a Hispanic family in East San Jose. “Having had minority and immigrant parents myself, this is something I’d like to give back to.”
The Day Worker Center of Mountain View has operated out of its own facility at 113 Escuela Ave. since November 2010, as a result of the efforts of the city, local churches and Mountain View and Los Altos residents sympathetic to the dayworker cause. The center opened after years of controversy surrounding laborers who hung out on street corners at or near the intersection of San Antonio Road and El Camino Real.
The center, supporters contend, offers perspective employers and workers a structure and accountability for work performed at a starting pay of $12 an hour. Most of the workers are Hispanic, although Marroquin said she has observed more workers of different ethnicities in recent years.
For more information on the Day Worker Center, visit www.dayworkercentermv.org.
For more information on Leadership Mountain View, visit www.chambermv.org/leadership.