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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Graton Defends Downtown from Loitering Laborers

Defending OUR Home Town!
By HolLynn D'Lil

Under cover of darkness Grateronians reinstalled posts that had been removed in the broad light of day.

Last month, with the cooperation of the merchants, the Graton Community Club and other stakeholders, the Graton Labor Center, Centro Laboral, installed posts for mounting "NO HIRING" signs on Graton and Ross Roads. They installed the posts about 10:00 in the morning, but within a few hours the posts had disappeared.

Cricket Seagull and David Upchurch originally installed a post on Ross Road, and by Friday evening, Centro Laboral members and supporters reinstalled the posts while community members Toni Winter and Barbra Friedman, post watchers at the corner of Graton and Ross Roads, lingered to make sure that they would not be removed again.

Terry Winter, member of Centro Laboral, said they installed the posts at night in order to be more sensitive to the day laborers who still wait on Graton Road to be hired, rather than go to the Centro Laboral's location on Bower Street. In all they installed five posts that will make it clear to employers that no hiring is to be done on Graton Road. There are already many signs that direct potential employers to the location of the Graton Labor Center.

The Friday night adventure was another interesting chapter in the story of a little town trying to solve the problems of two cultures and disparate needs. Graton has been the site of congregating day laborers from south of the border for over 80 years. Centro Laboral is a community-supported organization to help the day laborers and to integrate them in a way that works for the community. Two years ago, after years of collaboration among the laborers and the town folks, a site for Centro Laboral with a meeting building, restrooms and showers was built on Bowen Street. Today it is a showcase for the community, with lovely gardens and picnic facilities.

However, many day laborers continue to hang out on Graton Road, rather than go to the Bower Street facility. The reasons are many, but in an effort to address the root cause - that local employers themselves don't go to Centro Laboral to hire the day laborers - the community with Centro Laboral is planning on erecting large, impossible to ignore signs that say, "NO HIRING."

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