Worker Correspondents: Low Pay at Temp Agency Jobs Keeps Day Laborers Homeless

By Mike Talavera

The Tribune Support Committee in Austin spoke with workers at a local temp agency who said that the jobs given out are steady and that they are usually able to work 40 hours a week, but the pay is so low that many cannot afford a place to live. The assignments are typically custodial or construction-related and pay $9/hour or less. Many of the workers at the agency had lost their regular employment and then their homes after the lockdowns began earlier in the year.

“It’s because of Covid but some people just don’t have a support system,” one worker said. “People have families, other people have friends and stuff like that that they grew up with over here, and they know people that will help them…But I don’t know anybody over here.”

The worker continued that at some work sites those who are employed through the temp agency are harassed because the employers know they’re homeless.

“People talk to you sometimes, try to make you feel that big,” the worker said, creating a small empty space with his fingers.” Like you ain’t nothin, you know? It’s just something we have to deal with. It’s just something that people who do have families and support systems that haven’t been on the streets, they’ll never know exactly how it is out here. Because it’s rough in so many different ways. Sometimes it’s an uphill battle… everything we do.”

Another worker explained in a video interview how the temp agencies also discriminate against the workers and how they profit by acting as the middlemen.

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