Day Worker Center strives to stabilize hiring lulls: New skills, classes aim to bring more work

Mauricio Gutierrez is accustomed to working construction. Pouring concrete, applying stucco and performing other manual tasks have been part of the Mexico City native’s workday routine for years.

But the number of jobs has dwindled, the Mountain View dayworker said. Where months ago he might have been busy for an entire week with the construction company that employed him, these days he said he’s lucky to work two days a week.

“Now it’s very slow,” Gutierrez said in an interview at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, which matches employers with dayworkers. “I’m trying to make (job) applications every day.”

For many dayworkers, it’s a common story. The men typically perform manual labor while the women serve as nannies.

Maria Marroquín, executive director of the center, said she recognizes the impact the economy has had on her clients. But thanks to grants from local organizations, she’s begun implementing new programming to boost employment and combat the financial ebb and flow.

Among new offerings at the center are housecleaning certifications and instruction in cake decorating, piñata making and even blogging.

Marroquín said employer pairings were down 170 last month from April, even as the center opened for business in its spruced-up headquarters at 113 Escuela Ave. in November. Other months’ numbers indicate “unpredictable” market conditions, she said, but if workers learn entrepreneurship, they won’t rely on the center as a conduit for work.

“Everybody wins,” she said. “The community wins because more people are involved and are more productive. … Workers are more independent.”

Adding to the problem, according to Marroquín, is that most of the center’s employers are home-owners.

“Some are maybe unemployed now and have more time to do things on their own” without help from dayworkers, she said.

Unfavorable weather could also extend job lulls, she suggested, given the center’s current crop of employees, who are predominantly manual-labor focused. Hopefully, she said, that will change with new skills acquired.

Gutierrez, who posted his first blog two months ago, said sharing his stories on the Web generates good publicity for the center. Elliot Margolies, who led a class last week at the center, said it helps “build more bridges” in the community.

“A lot of people have stereotypes,” Margolies said. “This could help move past that.”

The center last week debuted a way for employers to reserve day workers via an online application.

“The idea is to make this an active, energetic community center,” Marroquín said.

Visit the Day Worker Center blog at

For more information, visit

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos