Bringing holiday cheer

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Many of us have more to be thankful for than others. Let’s say you’re an immigrant worker who depends on day work to survive. You’ve come to a schizophrenic land that can’t live without your labor, but wishes you would disappear. Each day, you get up before daylight to make the long bus ride to Malibu in the hope of getting lucky. Odds are that you will have to wait in vain. However, you dare not abandon hope. You wonder when days go by and no work has materialized whether the gamble to come to the U.S. in the first place was worth it? Weeks or perhaps years earlier, as a young man or woman, you left your family and birthplace, risking your life crossing forbidden desert landscapes, hostile borders, and probably paying dearly to a human smuggler, the “coyote.”

In the spring of 1990, Malibu advocates for the poor with the assistance of the county Sheriff’s Department and local churches rallied to open a day worker hiring site at the east end of the Zuma Beach parking lot. The vision was for a safe, sanitary and supervised site where day laborers and hirers could meet to fulfill their work-related needs. Local dignitaries, including candidates running for Malibu’s first City Council, attended the grand opening celebration. Unfortunately, the celebratory mood was short-lived because, in November, the site was forced to close on a zoning violation.

Thus the Thanksgiving weekend of 1990 was a low point. In spite of this major defeat, the local hiring site proponents appealed to the new city of Malibu’s first council. Eventually, their perseverance overcame substantial community conflict.

In 1993, the new hiring site, the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, was recreated in the Civic Center. In spite of the city funding half its operating costs, the annual funding shortfall means the nonprofit project leads a subsistence version of Malibu’s way-of-life. This year’s mail appeal barely covered its cost, so the volunteer board is planning a spring fundraising dinner hoping to revive the project before it goes into complete cardiac arrest.

Compared to the Thanksgiving of 1990, the situation for day laborers has improved greatly. The community has established a new Malibu tradition with day laborers and homeless treated to a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast. The primary organizers are members of the Malibu United Methodist Church. You may call 457.7505 to volunteer or make a donation. Tax-deductible donations are accepted at its P.O. Box 2273, Malibu, CA 90265. Donations can also be made on the Labor Exchange Web site at www.malibulaborexchange.

Mona Loo, board member

Malibu Community Labor Exchange