I pass a Star Nursery going to and from work each day, and I noticed on Wednesday that they had put up a chain link fence around their property, along with a few banners that read, “Star Nursery supports our community, we say ‘No’ to day laborers.”
This is probably a good thing. I don’t know if they had received complaints from customers, or if the day laborers were bothering people, but I do know that no place looks good with a bunch of guys sitting around on the sidewalk all day. I drive home around the middle of the afternoon, and there are still always about a dozen guys straggling behind there, and I have to wonder why. Do they still get picked up for any work that late in the day?
One of the major signs to me that was devolving into urban squalor was earlier this decade when I started noticing these groups of men loitering around Star Nursery and Home Depot each morning. Now, there have always been day laborers in Las Vegas, but when I was a kid, they all congregated on an unofficial strip of Bonanza Road, in an industrial part of town. Everybody knew that if you wanted cheap temporary labor, you went there. But in the last several years, the “market” for day laborers clearly spread out into dozens of satellites around town.
Actually, though, I have to wonder if the nursery’s stand is too little, too late. What with the economy tanking for the last couple of years—and make no mistake, Las Vegas has been very hard hit—one sign of that recession has been the drastic drop in the number of day laborers out there. Though the group that I would see around that nursery was still very large, the overall population of this group around town has clearly shrunk. Any of these congregations today is only about half the size it would have been two years ago. Presumably, a lot of the day laborers have had their livelihoods here dry up and have headed “back home.” One wonders where this fence was a few years ago when anti-illegal immigrant sentiment was at its peak.
Too little, too late, perhaps, but better late than never. Still, on the way home today, I saw a few workers hunched over on the sidewalk by the nursery…across the street.