Day-labor center to mark 6th year
by Michael Clancy - Jan. 29, 2009 11:38 AM
The Macehualli Day Labor Center will mark its sixth anniversary on Saturday with a party from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and organizer Salvador Reza hopes to kick off a capital improvement drive for the property.

The center, on 25th Street south of Bell Road, opened in 2003 after a coalition of business leaders, residents, city officials and police developed plans for a place where workers could find jobs with a guaranteed minimum wage.

The idea was to get day laborers off surrounding streets where they would loiter, waiting for someone to come by with work.

The center has been controversial since before its creation, and to this day, Reza said, anti-immigration activists patrol the area.

The anti-immigration frenzy culminated almost a year ago in an immigration sweep by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which resulted in a near-riot at the center.

But since then, with a poor economy, things have been relatively quiet, Reza said.

Not to say it has been easy. Harassment from activists, who still sit across the street from the center, and the lack of jobs have been big problems. The activists come around only a few days a week now, instead of daily, Reza said.

The jobs are a bigger problem. At one time the center would provide workers for as many as 60 jobs a day, Reza said. That has dropped to four or five.

The same number of workers, around 70 a day, show up, hoping to be hired, he said.

Reza said once the economy improves and immigration reform is passed, he hopes the center will not be needed.

He still wants to purchase the property and put up a community center to serve the populace of the neighborhood, long an enclave of immigrants.

He said he hopes to raise $5 million over time to build the center. ... r0130.html