San Mateo to revisit law regulating day laborers

An ordinance banning day laborers from gathering on the street in unincorporated San Mateo County may soon be history, as supervisors are expected to vote Tuesday to end the law.

“This ordinance came about in response to a lot of community concerns around day laborers darting out and congregating along the streets,” said Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who voted for the law in 2006 and now wants to do away with it. “We have a responsibility to provide safety for the workers as well as everyone else.”

Supervisors will vote on whether to add a sunset clause to the law, called the Roadway Solicitation Ordinance, allowing it to expire in June.

Two months after the law took effect, the county signed a contract with the Multicultural Institute, which operates a day laborer program in the North Fair Oaks community of unincorporated Redwood City. The program has virtually eliminated the safety hazards by doing street outreach and connecting day laborers with potential employers through cell phones and the Internet, supporters say.

According to San Mateo County Human Services Agency Director Beverly Beasley Johnson, who will present a report on the day worker program Tuesday, complaints to the Sheriff’s Office about congregating workers have decreased by 64 percent since 2006.

The program has registered 407 men and 22 women for employment, as well as 104 employers. Staff members at the Multicultural Institute have found work for 178 day laborers, according to the report.

Jacobs Gibson said that if the ordinance is lifted, sheriff’s deputies will closely monitor the North Fair Oaks area to make sure problems don’t return.

The board of supervisors discussed the ordinance at its Sept. 11 meeting, but postponed a decision until the Human Services Agency report was completed.

tbarak@examiner.com

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