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Catching Out: The Secret World of Day Laborers

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    Critically important book about a viciously oppressive industry

    As a native of the unnamed city where the Labor-4-U agency is located, I easily recognize the setting and cast of characters that Dick Reavis vividly depicts in "Catching Out: The Secret World of Day Laborers." I was thrilled when I found out that Reavis (a mentor of mine for many years) had written this book.

    "Catching Out" details the exploitative sector of the work force known as day labor, a particularly pernicious form of temporary employment where most workers show up at pre-dawn hours at "hiring halls" in the hopes of landing a one-day gig where they will be paid at the end of the workday. Many of these workers---mostly men---are guys most Americans would consider marginalized, unemployable, dysfunctional, or all of the above. However, the catalysts that push adults into this oppressive job sector are complex, multifaceted, and defy the easy explanations and stereotypes that too many Americans of privilege use to dismiss the working poor in this country. Sadly, I recognize many of the folks that people Reavis's narrative: they are my cousins, uncles, neighbors, fellow bus riders, workers I struggled alongside as an organizer, or homeless people that I've met and talked to in nearly every city I've visited.

    Unlike most members of this book's intended audience, I personally experienced the socioeconomic conditions that are an everyday reality for most day laborers: childhood poverty, single parent with limited education, an upbringing in low-income communities of color. However, as Reavis points out, even education, economic advantages and work experience isn't enough to save many Americans from temporary jobs and day laboring, especially in this period of high unemployment. Reavis also reminds us that our dismissal of the working poor and other marginalized communities will ultimately lead to our own collective economic undoing.

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