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DETR puts day laborers to work

John Seelmeyer

As the employment market in northern Nevada remains strong, Rick Healy wants to make sure that the folks who live day to day participate as well.

Healy, who manages the casual labor office operated by the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation in Sparks, says the state agency is stepping up efforts to market its services to businesses and individuals.

The service? A cadre of about 50 laborers most of them unskilled or semi-skilled available each day to go to work immediately.

Even though the region’s construction industry is booming, that hasn’t translated into boom times for the casual laborers at the JobConnect office.

“We’re not as busy as we’d like to be,” Healy says.

In some instances, he says casual laborers may be finding work through private employment agencies.

In other cases, however, state officials suspect that employers simply may not be thinking about the casual labor office when they need workers.

The day starts early at the office at 420 Galletti Way.

Healy and his staff open the doors at 6 a.m.

Job seekers file in and sign up.

As the 7 o’clock hour arrives, workers’ names are dropped into a can and pulled at random.

The order determines who will get the first assignments that day and, perhaps, who will be sent home without work after a few hours of watching television in a waiting room.

Most days, Healy says, about twothirds of the laborers who show up get work for the day.

During peak days during the summer, that can amount to as many as 80 jobs; most days, it’s something less than 50.

Healy, who’s been on the job only a few months, say he’s making more calls on employers who might need shortterm unskilled employees.

“We have a lot of fine candidates for that work,” he says.

“A lot of these guys are regulars with us.”

An employer who hires a worker from the casual labor pool negotiates his own rate of pay.

The average, Healy says, is about $8 an hour with a usual range of $6 to $10.

Some employees throw in a bonus such as lunch at the worksite.

Federal labor laws allow short-term workers to be hired without the paperwork that’s required for traditional employment, Healy says.

Among the highest paid casual laborers at the Sparks office are a cadre with experience and skills in household moving.

Those workers, who have experience with professional moving crews, command $10 an hour.

While employers can swing by the casual labor office in the morning to hire workers for that day, Healy’s staff encourages employers to call a day ahead.

(The phone number is 688-1240; the office closes at 3 p.m.) For jobs on weekends, employers need to call before 10 a.m.

to arrange for workers.

Healy also is pitching his services to private individuals who need help with odd jobs around the house or yard.

At Memorial Day, for instance, the office conducted a public relations push to remind homeowners that they could get some help.