Monday, September 26, 2011

The Right to Roadside Job Hunting

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 9:41 AM

The practice of roadside job hunting has made its way to a federal courtroom. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (which includes Idaho) ruled 9-2 that any ban on roadside job solicitation is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

The upcoming issue of Time magazine examines the practice of day laborers standing along a road to offer themselves to would-be employers. Some communities from California to Connecticut have begun cracking down on the roadside gatherings. Day-laborer lines have become a familiar sight in the Treasure Valley and across the country.

The city of Redondo Beach, Calif., is one community that has made it illegal "to stand on a street or highway and solicit employment, business or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle." In 2004, the city went as far as having police pose as potential employers, arresting day laborers who asked for work. The practice was challenged and last week, the 9th Circuit appellate court ruled against Redondo Beach.

Adam Cohen, a law professor at Yale and former member of The New York Times editorial board says day-laborer lines "are a Rorschach test. Some people look at them and see foreigners who are making a mess of tidy neighborhoods and threatening public safety. Other observers see the lines as filled with well-meaning people, many of them fathers and husbands, willing to work hard-often for little pay-to be able to buy food and provide shelter for their families. First Amendment issues aside, which vision people have of the men by the road is likely to explain whether they want the bans to survive or to be struck down."

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