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Thank you for the article by Ta-Nehisi Coates entitled “Bummer Rental” (7/30). The article well describes the exploitation of men and women for day labor. Although there are many companies that provide day labor, the author featured Premier Shuttle Services, contracted by Budget Rent A Car, which hired two workers as day laborers. I was very glad that Coates exposed this unjust and unscrupulous conduct for Washington City Paper readers.
So Others Might Eat (SOME) considers this kind of day labor very unjust. The article said that workers are picked up outside of SOME. Although somewhat true, that statement is not completely accurate. The homeless and hungry who eat at SOME’s dining room each morning leave when they finish eating. Day-labor vans wait on the corner or down the street hoping to get cheap laborers. For many years we have asked day-labor vans not to be on our property.
I would venture that most people who work day labor know they will be taken advantage of but are so desperate for work that they sign on for the day anyway. But as we see, workers get paid poorly and erratically, have no assurance of steady work, and get no health care, retirement, Social Security, or other benefits. It is unconscionable treatment of poor people who are willing to work.
SOME has tried to address the lack of good employment by opening the Center for Employment Training (CET) this past year. The program is based on a model that has worked in more than 40 cities across the country and has experienced great success in helping people who start with few skills to ultimately get and keep full-time, living-wage jobs with benefits and the chance for growth.
SOME CET students choose to specialize in an occupational skill area—office automation (computers), building maintenance, or (to be offered next month) skilled nursing assistance. Students learn at their own pace. Training is intensive, individualized, and holistic, with instruction in communication, leadership, work discipline, and productivity integrated into the program.
CET students are getting full-time jobs paying a minimum of $8.50 to $10 an hour with well-known area employers who provide benefits and opportunities for advancement. SOME has an Industry Board that helps oversee curriculum and offers to hire our graduates. In June, our first 25 graduates completed their training, and they are now working.
This is the kind of employment that SOME believes will help people leave poverty for permanent self-sufficiency. While we discourage work that only takes advantage of individuals’ lack of skills and vulnerability (like that described in “Bummer Rental”), SOME encourages anyone who comes to us seeking the skills to get a sustainable job to consider a training program like SOME CET.
So Others Might Eat