Exchange of heart


    I’m writing to you today about the Malibu Community Labor Exchange (MCLE), a nonprofit project that I hold close to my heart — a project worthy of your support and essential to our community. The MCLE is the only city-sanctioned hiring site in Malibu that serves both worker and hirer without charge. It is run by an all-volunteer board of directors and one salaried employee, Executive Director Oscar Mondragon, who served 20 years with Cesar Chavez to further social justice through nonviolence.

    On Aug. 31, the center will celebrate its fifth birthday. On that first day, 20 workers registered and only two went to work. Today, over 60 workers sign in each day and approximately 30 go to work. In fact, five years later, the center has registered over 3,000 workers and has helped facilitate over 26,000 jobs. In addition, the center has enabled many individuals to escape the indignities of homelessness.

    In 1993, when a devastating firestorm hit Malibu, a team of day workers went to the aid of local homeowners. Braving the heat, they cut brush and smothered burning debris. While Malibu was without cable, the rest of the world saw Malibu day workers on many different stations. A 70-year-old grandmother in Guatemala was shocked but thrilled to see her grandson on TV. being hugged and honored for his bravery. Later, Villa Costera homeowners awarded the fire heroes with gifts and donated funds to purchase a trailer office for the center. That trailer has served well, but today needs to be upgraded.

    In 1995, the Labor Exchange contributed a 120-rosebush garden in front of City Hall. Citizens were invited to “adopt” a bush in the name of a loved one for a tax-deductible donation. When I selected a rose bush to honor my father, Francisco Estevez, I looked for the smallest and least robust to symbolize the struggle my father and others like him faced as immigrants. Under the care of volunteer MCLE workers, that bush now produces glorious and vibrant blossoms.

    The Labor Exchange receives less than 15 percent of its budget from government funding — a Community Development Block Grant (federal money earmarked for community projects to help the poor). Because these funds have decreased from $35,000 in 1993 to $9,000 in 1998, the MCLE board must raise approximately $50,000 each year from donations and private grants in order to continue operations on a subsistence level.

    Please join me in continuing to encourage this remarkable win-win project by sending a tax-deductible birthday tribute to the Malibu Community Labor Exchange – “MCLE” c/o P.O. Box 2273, Malibu, CA 90265.1f you have questions about the Labor Exchange or need a worker, please call Oscar any morning, Monday through Saturday at 317-4717. Thank you.

    Faith, Hope, Love,

    Martin Sheen