On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court gave day laborers an important legal victory by rejecting the appeal of the City of Redondo Beach, California, which arrested several people who were soliciting work on streets to enforce an ordinance.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the prohibition the ordinance established was too broad, restricting “significantly more speech than is necessary” to promote the city’s stated goal of traffic safety. With its ruling, the high court let stand the appeals court’s decision.
Redondo Beach began enforcing a law that had been on the books for 20 years when several businesspeople complained that the day laborers’ presence was disrupting traffic and they were littering.
Arresting the day laborers was an unconstitutional way to address the complaints. People can’t be prevented from seeking work, but they also can’t be stopped from offering their labor on public roads, period.
In the past, day laborer centers have allowed workers to connect with those looking for employees in an organized way. Make no mistake: there is a supply and demand market for these workers.
Unfortunately, because of the economic crisis, funding for these centers has been cut.
The Supreme Court’s decision should discourage the spread of municipal ordinances like Redondo Beach’s. If this city or others want to tackle day laborers and people who need their services, it should help this process take place in a way that is safe for everyone.
Arresting these workers is not an option.