Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Want a shot at a decent job? Pitch a tent, endure brutal cold and get in line

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/03/07/want_a_shot_at_a_decent_job_pitch_a_tent_endure_brutal_cold_and_get_in_line/

Here's what it's come to: Sleeping on the sidewalk for five nights in the hopes of landing a good union gig

Friday, Mar 7, 2014

Some have parked their tents along the sidewalk since early Tuesday, enduring the brutal cold of this New York City winter for six days and five nights.

Ray only got here this afternoon, but he’s no more than 20 spots behind the front of the line. A stocky guy in his late 30s, Ray’s bundled in a thick, hooded parka; he’s holding a plastic blanket around his legs. Why, I ask him, did someone show up five days in advance?

“He’s hungry,” Ray tells me, his admiration obvious. “Ya can’t knock that. That’s hustle. But he’s gotta live ’round here to take a shower, or he’s gonna need some fuckin’ Old Spice. He’s been sittin’ out here since Tuesday.”

Ray arrived Sunday afternoon, “around 11 o’clock,” but he’d been driving past the entrance all week, checking to make sure early arrivals wouldn’t force him to line up earlier.

These are not welfare queens, “moochers” or “takers.” These are hardworking, blue-collar New Yorkers, camping on the street by the hundred for a shot at one of 30 union jobs being offered by Laborer’s Local 731. The union announced recruitment starting Monday, March 3, scheduled to continue through the 14th, but they could staff every position — four times over — just from the men standing on the street tonight. And while Ray’s got a pretty good shot — he’s near the front of the line, easily within the first 30 through the door — there’s still an air of uncertainty in his voice when I ask him about his chances.

“It’s a gamble,” Ray explains.

And when they tell me the hourly rate they’ll earn if they manage to get hired, I start to wonder if maybe I should go home and grab a tent of my own — these jobs start at $30-$40/hour (with union benefits and perks, of course). According to one applicant, a union like this one only brings in new members once every five years.

Indeed, it’s such a good job that most of the men in line already have jobs. But in the plutocratic mecca of New York, even $16/hour — as Ray earns working as a warehouse supervisor — doesn’t add up to a living wage. So he stands in the cold, waiting for the chance to get a shot at a job. (That is, assuming he passes a physical test that includes pulling a 75-pound weight 12 feet in the air.)

Continue reading at:   http://www.salon.com/2014/03/07/want_a_shot_at_a_decent_job_pitch_a_tent_endure_brutal_cold_and_get_in_line/

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