Mustachioed and graying, dressed in the uniform of a full-time job he once had, Gonzalo Garcia is out in front of The Home Depot on Lake Worth Road most mornings, and it doesn’t take much to catch his eye.
A braking pickup or the wave of a driver’s hand will send him and several other Hispanic day laborers rushing to the departing vehicle, their eyes bright with the possibility of a day’s work.
Garcia, at 49 a father of four, says he tends to hang back as the younger workers push forward. But his counterparts often run, hoping to be chosen to paint, rip out drywall or lay bricks.
The onslaught, a symptom of the voracious competition for dwindling numbers of day jobs, can be surprising to the unsuspecting, and even frightening.
In recent years, the Hispanic day laborers have become as much a part of the scenery at The Home Depot west of Lake Worth as the fence and hedges, and as more lose full-time jobs in construction or landscaping, their numbers seem to have grown.
The Home Depot is not pleased. Blaming the job seekers for causing accidents and driving away customers, the world’s largest home improvement retailer has been working to discourage them from rushing vehicles in the driveways and trespassing in the parking lot.
But the need for work keeps pushing the men forward, and the result has been an entrenched standoff.
Garcia, an undocumented Guatemalan national who had a regular job in construction until being laid off late last year, said he and the others only want to work and have no other way to find steady pay.
“We’re not here because we want to be here,” he said in Spanish. “We need to be.”
Home Depot at standoff with laborers who swarm customers in bid for work