Day laborers are now in high demand as more and more homes need to be cleared of Harvey’s damage.
According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, many of the workers used for jobs, like Harvey’s cleanup, are immigrants to the U.S., some in the country illegally.
More than ever, this population is being hired to clean out houses and move ruined furniture.
Despite the opportunity for employment, however, the working conditions are often dangerous, and the employees are regularly hired by individual homeowners for one-off jobs or businesses offering minimal oversight.
With workers in such high demand, it could mean they will not be forced to settle for low wages.
According to the report, workers sometimes hold out for higher wages when they understand the demand – sometimes successfully, as well.
“Now we’ll be busy for the rest of the year,” Nicolas Garcia, 55, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico who’s owned his own contracting business for 15 years said in an interview. “Now that this disaster happened, we have to step it up.”
The Tribune further explained exploitation remains a problem among the immigrant workforce, with some hired after multiple major storms.
Plenty of the workers possess stories of injuries on the job paid for out of pocket and being shortchanged for their work.
Many of the workers interviewed said it is painful to see so many Houstonians hurting in the way they are, but they remain hopeful the increase in work opportunities will be beneficial to the local economy:
“When there is work, you can live a good life,” Armando Rivera, 36, and married with four children, said in an interview.
Even before Harvey, unemployment in the construction industry was climbing.
That said, carpentry and bricklaying were just a couple of the skill sets people were having trouble finding in the workforce, and a slew of recent immigration arrests under Trump may make things worse.