Catholic Charities Community Services Westchester Advocates For Day Laborers In Yonkers And The Bronx
By Peter Feuerherd
Day Laborers With Catholic Charities Outreach in The Bronx. Photo: Catholic Charities Community Services
It’s another sign of post-pandemic recovery. The day laborers in Yonkers and the Bronx are back, hundreds of them, mostly men of immigrant backgrounds, lining up outside large box stores or on street corners, arriving by 7 a.m. each day. They wait in the hope of finding construction, landscaping or home remodeling work.
They were, noted Esmeralda Hoscoy, Regional Director of County Catholic Charities Community Services Westchester, much fewer in number during the height of Covid-19, as pandemic fears cut construction projects and New York City placed a hold on non-essential construction.
Meanwhile, through boom and bust, Catholic Charities Community Services (CCSS) is there, watching that the hard work of day laborers is justly compensated and safe.
“People see them as an easy target,” said Hoscoy, noting that day laborers are often victimized by wage theft from unscrupulous building contractors – and sometimes suburban homeowners seeking a bargain on home repair. Catholic Charities New York acts as an advocate on behalf of day laborers, sometimes going to court and, more often, simply placing a phone call to a wayward contractor. Shame works, at least some of the time.
Meanwhile, CCCS tries to dispel myths about the day laborers, who frequently come from Latin America, including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, and the Caribbean, including Haiti and Jamaica. Sometimes their wait for work is perceived as lethargy. As single men, they are sometimes seen as threats, unconnected to the wider community. Their immigrant status is often questioned.
By contrast, Hoscoy knows that they are often a vital part of area churches, including Catholic parishes, and are often fathers and husbands, dedicated to supporting their families. Often the single men are a vital link to their families at home, sending them money. A new Catholic Charities project is gathering input from the women connected to day laborers, seeking out what the needs are of wives and mothers.