Herndon = Hypocrisy

I love the hypocrisy of Herndon’s Day Labor Site controversy, where the good people of Herndon want to have the benefits of cheap labor that can be hired and fired on a daily basis – manicured lawns, new homes, home repairs, Herndon Labor Day Jazz & Wine Festival clean-up, and other menial, repetitive, and dirty jobs done cheaply and quickly – yet do not want to have the day labor pool that makes that possible.

For several years now, the first Wash Post article I can find dates to 2003, they’ve had an informal day labor market around a 7-11, the time-honored country-wide location. There men, mainly from Central & South America, but in decades past would’ve been Irish or Italian, wait hopefully for work that will pay them a barely-livable wage. A wage which they will use mainly to support families back home, and are often cheated out of through ignorance or outright cheapness.

And still, day in and day out, they congregate there, looking for work that the residents of Herndon demand and yet are too cheap to pay living or better yet, union wages for. Work that none of you reading this would want to do. Work that only recent immigrants, ones whose lack of English skills usually more than trade skills, will stoop low enough to do.

Now that the city is trying to make an organized spot for them, one that would offer formal contracts to workers, teach them English, integrate them better into American society, and even offer them a simple bathroom while they wait, the residents are up in arms. For them, it’s not about adding organization to what is now chaos, which would benefit everyone. Nope, it’s about what really matters to the good residents of Herndon, as this quote from the Wash Post article today shows:

Kathleen Paul, whose house abuts the proposed site, said five of the 30 houses on her street are for sale, but prospective buyers are not being brought to see them. “You are putting our families and our property values in jeopardy,” she said.

Property values, eh? Who do you think built and now maintains that very property you so treasure, the Umpa Lumpas? No, those very day labors you wanna run out of town. Again, from the Wash Post:

“All of you have very nice houses,” said Neddy Vargas, 25, in Spanish. The “majority of the people who built these houses have been those people you are calling illegal,” said Vargas, who identified himself as a day laborer.

As a guy whose worked day labor jobs and once had the calluses to prove it, and whose father was a Mexican construction worker who pulled himself up from the banks of the Rio Grande to a successful community leader, I am disgusted by Herndon’s antics. How can folks look in the mirror or better yet, their family tree with any shred of dignity or self-respect after asking questions like this:

No. 43: “How will the project managers ensure that my grandchildren are not exposed to the workers while they are waiting for their school bus in the morning?”

They should be so lucky as to “be exposed” to hard working immigrants, who gave up everything they knew and loved to fix your sink for $5 a hour, and who will, in a few short years, be more flag-waving patriotic than you could ever be when they make it in this Land of Opportunity. Right after they learn a new word your teaching them right now: hypocrisy

28 Comments so far

  1. Don (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 12:58 pm

    It’s tempting to get up in arms about it and I don’t deny there’s some hypocricy and racism partly at work here, but my credit union abuts the 7-11 where the current impromptu site is and I can tell you from personal experience it’s not a small or organized conflagration. I wouldn’t personally want to live right next door to where dozens of people hang out the entire day, talking and drinking. There’s also incidents of catcalling and yelling at passing women, which may not be the worst thing in the world but, again, would you want to spend your day next door to it all day?

    This is less racism than it is the same old Not In My Back Yard that makes people oppose waste processing plants, landfills, commercial buildings, warehouse stores, tall buildings, etc etc etc because they don’t want their pretty lawns and nice houses intruded upon.

  2. sawt (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

    I’m with you 100%. I grew up in Herndon and its changed quite a bit over the last 20 years. The problem is that many of the old-time Herndon residents are, in a word, rednecks. Herndon is strange, the older developments in the town of Herndon are full of generations of the same families, while the ‘outskirts’ of Herndon, Centreville Road near the Toll Road for example, have several newer developments and are way more diverse. What’s next, sending all the Indians back who live in Herndon along the Dulles Tech Corridor because they’re taking jobs?

  3. wayan (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 1:27 pm

    “I can tell you from personal experience it’s not a small or organized conflagration”

    That’s exactly why the city wants to build them an organized day labor site, one where there will be no hanging out to cat call, drink, and layabout. Give these guys a little bit of respect as they look for work and they’ll return the respect with a clean and orderly site – look at what CASA did in Maryland.

    We can both agree that leaving it the way it is now is not good for anyone – the workers, the residents, or the city.

  4. wayan (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 1:35 pm

    I don’t think they’ll send back the Indians, even the lamb slaughtering Muslim ones, for Herndon needs it’s day labor, woops, I mean ‘contract’ technology workers for the Dulles Corridor.

  5. Viva_Che (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 1:37 pm

    All those people who are so hoitee-toitee about their property values, forgot from whence they came.

    The Irish were once considered the bane of society, after that it was the Polish and Italians, then it was the Chinese and Indians, now it’s the Hispanics/Latinos – we all came from humble beginnings. No one has the right to be righteous, esp. in America.

    If anything, Herndon doesn’t belong to those so-called citizens – technically, the land was stolen from the real habitants of the area – Manahoacs / Powhatans / Iroquois. But that’s another story.

    Mes amigos, lev

  6. Don (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 2:47 pm

    I understand completely why they want to build something, but my point is that where they are now is impromptu; the people who live close-by had no input or ability to do anything about it. Now the city wants to put it somewhere else and the people who live at the new proposed site have had an opportunity to SEE exactly what they’re proposing to locate right next door to them.

    As far as your claim that here will be no hanging out to cat call, drink, and layabout that’s just pie in the sky. Go there at 3 in the afternoon and there’s still over a dozen men who didn’t score some work standing around hoping for a last-minute pickup. What magic will the new location have that’s going to get every single one of these men work or alter their behavior when a woman walks by?

    This is complicated situation that defies easy solutions and Herndon deserves credit for trying to find a solution other than just sweeping it under the rug. Lumping everyone who has an issue with the new plan into a big pile that you can label “racists” is nothing more than grandstanding .

  7. wayan (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

    Hmm… let’s work with this for a sec. You say “I understand completely why they want to build something, but my point is that where they are now is impromptu” and then “the people who live at the new proposed site have had an opportunity to SEE exactly what they’re proposing”.

    How could they “SEE” what is proposed if all they have to go by is what is there currently? Did they, or you, go to the CASA site in Maryland to see what could be done? Did they, or you read the Project Hope & Harmony operating guidelines for the new site? Here’s one of them:

    PH&H prohibits the on-site possession of, use of, and/or intoxication by alcohol or illicit drugs on the part of any site personnel or participants.

    They want to build not just something, but an actual organized center, with job skills services delivered by paid professionals. A center that isn’t there now, which is the whole point.


  8. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

    If we’re going to pay them living wages, perhaps we ought to get a green card check, too…

  9. UnusualCandor (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 5:09 pm

    The problem with the proposed Herndon center is that the site would be illegal. The federal government does not allow the hiring of illegal workers. With the City of Herndon building this, they are giving illegal aliens a place to go to beg for work that they cannot legally have, and for people and businesses to illegally hire people ineligible for work.

    Never mind the whole thing that the city wants to spend tax money to assist illegal aliens, which BTW is also illegal.

  10. Don (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 5:12 pm

    Is it your contention that consumption of alcohol and drugs are not prohibited at the current location, Wayan? Or is it more likely that such prohibitions, along with ones against loitering, are not being enforced? Why should the residents in that new neighborhood just take it on faith that the move will be accompanied by enforcement? These people who you have tarred with the label of hypocrite (despite the lack of any indication they are using the services of the laborers while resisting having them set up down the street from their homes) are just looking at what is an unappealing situation and questioning that they want it transplanted close to them.

    You can relate the promises about how the new location will be different conditions all you want but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to question if they’re being sold a bill of goods and it’s just going to be the same situation. Additionally, it’s not all tea and roses at these official sites; there are reports and complaints of bad behavior at them too.

    But hey, why stop throwing stones and consider their concerns and fears? They have more than the laborers so they must immediately be the Bad Guys for having concerns about the quality of their life. The guy in your link who was cheated out of his $1500: victim. The people who saved and make payments on a house and dare to express concern about it: villan.

  11. wayan (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 5:21 pm

    Sure, let’s give them a Green Card check. Right after we de-schizophrenia-ize the USA immigration policy that doesn’t allow for low-skilled immigrant visas at the border yet doesn’t check for documents once folks are in the USA. In fact, its illegal to discriminate based on immigration status!

    You show me the green card holding, or better yet natural-born American willing to make those $.99/lbs chicken leg and $50 landscaping deals that we all love possible with a sub-minimum wage income. Please. Oh you’ll find a handful, who like me, were destitute and needed a summer’s income to get back on their feet, but not enough to staff one decent sized construction site, much less Herndon, or all of America.

    Really, the Green Card issue is just a red herring. No matter if they were African-Americans, American Indians, or even just plain “white” folks, it’s the hypocrisy of the well established trying to push a needed service out of sight/out of mind because it doesn’t fit their version of suburban perfection, even thought it is the very thing that allows them to afford that perfection, that is the underlying issue here.

  12. Don (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 5:48 pm

    I can’t speak for anyone else here but wolf-whistles, litter, and public urination are a ‘needed service’ for me. If you think not wanting a crowd of a hundred men hanging around next door is a demand for ‘suburban perfection’ I think you should ponder why your standards are so low.

  13. wayan (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 5:57 pm

    Don, how many times do we have to go over this? They are trying to improve the situation in the move, not move what’s there. I guess for you, there can be no improvement until what, those 150 men magically disappear?

    As long as folks want cheap labor, and I’ve not heard anyone say otherwise, there will be a demand for immigrant day labor. As long as there are 7-11’s, street corners, parking lots, etc, people will naturally congregate, as they do with any like-minded activity. And until you regulate it as a real service with real services for the day labors, you’ll have your “wolf-whistles, litter, and public urination” current impromptu site.

    Enjoy it while you can.

  14. Tiff (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 6:37 pm

    It’s perfectly legal to refuse to hire someone who can’t prove they are legally authorized to work. In fact, it’s illegal to knowingly employ someone who can’t provide proof of work authorization, and it’s illegal to employ someone without examining such proof. That’s why the I-9 form exists, and why my (temporary employment services) company, among others, goes to such pain and expense to ensure that the forms are administered correctly.

    It is also perfectly legal to refuse to sponsor H1-B visas.

    What IS illegal is to discriminate between citizens and permanent residents unless the job requires some sort of clearance of background check, English-speakers and non-English speakers unless the job involves a lot of talking to English-speakers, etc.

    Personally, I think legally authorized day-laborers are great, but littering, wolf-whistling, and public urination are not. So there.

  15. Don (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 7:07 pm

    I don’t know Wayan, when will you actually respond and defend the statements you actually made instead of this red herring about where day laborers fit into the US economy? Your whole post revolved around maligning the people who have trepidations about making this new operation their immediate neighbors. I tried to make the point that maybe these people look at the current situation and think “jeez, do I want that next to my house?”

    Yes, the point of the move supposed to be for it to be better in the new location. But these people have purchased homes at the insane prices that VA real estate has rocketed to and have some concerns about what happens next to their house. They look at the current unpleasant scene and worry that the move will happen but the government won’t follow through on their promises that it’ll be better in the new location. They’re concerned that maybe the government is painting a rosier picture of how things will be than how they really will? They suspect that they’re being made promises that won’t be honored? How crazy of them!

    You took the time to quote “How will the project managers ensure that my grandchildren are not exposed to the workers while they are waiting for their school bus in the morning?” and implied that the person who said it was a contemptable individual who looks down on people who do physical labor – not that maybe they’re worried it’ll be the same thing all over again and THAT is what their kid will be exposed to. But why have a subtle thought when you can just tar everyone with the elitist brush?

  16. Samantha (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 8:49 pm

    “But why have a subtle thought when you can just tar everyone with the elitist brush?”

    Um, Wayan’s the one advocating for the immigrant workers and saying they should have a place to be – and improve themselves – while they wait for work. You’re the one who thinks they should just disappear. Who’s the elitist? In my mind, worrying more about property values than human rights and hard working men (even if they are brown) is elitist.

    I used to live in San Diego where this is a prevalent issue, and the type of center they’re proposing in Herndon would be welcome there, believe me. It’s a win-win, assuming it’s maintained properly and people understand the purpose…a minor detail you appear to be missing.

  17. wayan (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 8:57 pm

    Me paint with a wide brush? Pot, it’s kettle, and you’re black. Don, you’re somehow trying to tie Bush’s Mess o’potamia with a day labor site in Herndon. That’s a reach to say the least.

    What is not a reach is to say that here is a thought-out plan to try an mitigate a real, not going away problem, and folks around the new site and not, in classic NIMBY fashion, are trying to block it out of ignorance, prejudice, and, yes, even elitism.

    Now, if we can move past the name calling, how would you solve this problem then, if not with a organized program as presented by PH&H or implemented by CASA in Maryland?

  18. wayan (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 9:16 pm

    Tiff, I stand corrected. I thought it was illegals also. And I couldn’t agree more that “legally authorized day-laborers are great, but littering, wolf-whistling, and public urination are not.”

    Until we have a logical immigration policy where we either allow low-skill visas or we are willing to pay full cost for goods and services, we will have illegals looking for work. And until folks realize that an organized and regulated day labor site with services for the laborers is a positive and constructive addition to their community, they will have impromptu pick-up spots with littering, wolf-whistling, and public urination.

  19. Tiff (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 9:32 pm

    Provided that a day laborer center could prevent the aforementioned littering, wolf-whistling, and public urination that we all agree is so bad, I’m sure it would be a positive addition to the community, Wayan.

    However, I’m also going to agree with Don on the significant point that people worried about protecting their property values after paying kajillions of dollars for their homes aren’t racists, they’re just skeptical about local government’s ability to keep its promises. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s pragmatism.

    And I think the issue of whether it helps illegals or not is relatively moot, Unusual Candor. There are plenty of legal day laborers who can use the help, and it’s already the burden of the employer to check the status of the workers. Local government’s responsibility is to develop the immediate community (day laborers are good capitalism), not to enforce federal employment eligibility regulations.

  20. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 9:34 pm

    Your “logical immigration policy” will likely not help remove the problem here, which is a bunch of littering, wolf-whistling workers that pee in public. Now, I realize you’re used to people like in your alleys, but no one actually wants people like that as neighbors, so color me entirely sympathetic to the Herndon people.

  21. wayan (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 9:21 am

    And I’d be sympathetic to the folks of Herndon too, if the current site had bathrooms available so workers didn’t have to pee in the bushes, an order system so workers didn’t rush cars that pulled up, and classes so the guys who didn’t get work could do something besides loiter, and the workers were still a public nuisance.

    As it is, the current site, a 7-11 parking lot, has none of these basic services, and therefore is chaotic and unruly.

    This actually reminds me of what some white folks said about black folks during the 1960’s civil rights era. Something along the lines of “Oh look at them now, living like animals, in filth. We can’t let them live among us, they aren’t capable of respectability.” While at the same time, denying black folks the very ability to live respectable lives.

    Now folks of Herndon stop denying basic services, like a public bathroom and orderly job distribution, to day labors who wait for two or three hours to work for you.

  22. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 9:37 am

    I don’t think that’s a fair comparison at all, Wayan.

    The other problem I’m not sure you’re taking into account is that a government-run facility would require paying day laborers, taxing them, taxing the people that hire them, monitoring and policing the site, which means that many of the distrustful-of-local-government day laborers wouldn’t go near the place, fearful of being deported.

    So the government, with its heart in the right place, would be spending money for a facility that wouldn’t be used.

  23. wayan (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 9:52 am

    The government would not be paying or taxing the day labors – the local government would be paying a nonprofit organization to run the site & provide a structured place for the day labors to congregate.

    As with the CASA facility in Maryland, employers would be the ones paying & taxing workers, not government, and the nonprofit would specifically not collect personal information from the workers just so the workers would feel comfortable there. Last but not least, the city would make it illegal to pick up workers anywhere else, just so it would be used.

    Then, if the workers still use the 7-11 as an impromptu site, I’ll be the first to say “Book ’em Danny”

  24. Don (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 11:25 am

    Samantha, I am accusing -Wayan- of wielding the label ‘elitist’ and using subtle and no-so-subtle accusations of racism to describe the people of Herndon who dare to question the plan, though now you’ve thrown your black/white thinking into the ring too. I realize our government has championed this kind of dialog of late, but why can’t we acknowledge any ground between being rabidly for the center and hatefully against it? You accuse me of wanting them to “just dissapear” when in fact I am cautiously in favor of the plan.

    What I am NOT in favor of is maligning the people who have put down their money, the fruit of THEIR efforts, to buy overpriced homes simply because they are questioning whether this is going to be a signifigant improvement or just a transplant of an existing ugly situation. Wayan, I can’t believe you can type “if we can move past the name calling” without a hint of irony given that this is commentary on YOUR snarky name-calling post!

    As far as my “trying to tie Bush’s Mess o’potamia” I was merely attempting to show that perhaps the people who have doubts about this plan have maybe one or two reasons to think that the government doesn’t always give them an accurate picture of what’s to come. I’m glad you have such faith in everything you’re told, it’s a trait that’s going to come in handy for you when the real bill for the new Nationals stadium comes in. The rest of us are going to continue to scrutinize the claims laid out before us.

  25. Samantha (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 11:51 am

    Don, you yourself acknowledged in your first post that there is some racism involved. It’s there and you know it. And I’m not rabid about anything (well, not this anyway), nor do I think you’re hateful. I’m not sure where you’re even getting that from, or what that has to do with anything. This is about whether the people of Herndon are justified in opposing the day laborer building…I say they’re not, you think they are. Simple as that.

    If you’re “cautiously in favor” of the plan, good for you. But be careful not to cross over into cynical territory, where you don’t trust anything that any government does, and all you have to say are negative things without offering alternative solutions.

    And as far as the day laborers being afraid to go to the center because of INS status, the suggestion above is exactly what should happen. Once the center is there and they actually have an alternative to the 7-11, then they’ll have no excuse for the public urination and public drunkenness. They can go to the center and work, or they can hang out at the 7-11 and get arrested. And since most of the laborers WANT the site, I don’t see this as being a huge issue.

  26. wayan (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

    And I’m only rabid about beer + lime + ice.

    I would like to see the good folks of Herndon give this center a chance. They can always shut it down later if it doesn’t meet the community’s needs; they are paying for it after all. What I’m irked about are the folks who are rabidly against it, using subtle and no-so-subtle accusations and stereotypes to blanket all the day laborers as useless illegal layabouts.

    Those folks I did and do consider hypocritical elitists.

    The folks that are being constructive in their assessment of the new center, who are trying to find a reasonable solution to the real problem, they I salute. They are the ones that have been working on this plan for a long time now, and have thought out the issues, researched the alternatives, and presented Herndon with what they believe is the best solution.

    So Dan, I’m glad that you’re cautiously for the center. As one who’s seen others close up, and once in the past stood outside a 7-11, forgive me if I have a deeper conection with the day labor side, a more positive view of the center, and no patience for those who are dismissing it out of hand.

  27. lman (unregistered) on August 9th, 2005 @ 8:38 pm

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. It is ILLEGAL to hire undocumented workers. It drives down the wages of people who have gotten here legitimately and the leaves the undocumented workers unprotected

    if they get hurt.

  28. wayan (unregistered) on August 10th, 2005 @ 10:38 am

    I fully agree, it is illegal to hire undocumented workers, and they do drive down prices and are often victims of crime.

    Now the reality check – there is an unquenched demand for them & a seemingly endless supply based on factors outside our or Herndon’s control. Until the Federal government changes its immigration and border polices, and enforces them inside the USA, we will have to live with undocumented workers.

    With this situation, we have two choices: a unruly mob in a 7-11 parking lot, or an orderly, regulated process at a professionally run center.

    Which would you want in your community?

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