A group of approximately 100 laborers, tenants and supporters, have gathered this morning at 3400 Treeline Court in Hoover, protesting for the right to assemble, the right to look for work and in an effort to shed light on what they refer to as “deteriorating” housing conditions.
Members of the National Day Laborer Network, Undocubus riders, local day laborers, area tenants and supporters contend that the rights of workers, tenants and fundamentally, human beings, are being abused. Recently, they argue, building management at the apartment complexes at 3400 Treeline Court have continually tried to prevent day laborers, most of whom reside on the premises, from gathering outside the complex and waiting for work.
Furthermore, protesters allege, the management at the apartment complex fails to maintain adequate housing conditions for tenants, even in the face of repeated maintenance requests and complaints.
Nadia Marin-Molina of the National Day Laborer Network helped organize the event.
“We came here because we heard complaints from the tenants about being harassed when they step outside to look for work,” Marin-Molina said. “Managers here at the property tell them they can’t stand outside the apartment looking for work, nor can they wait for their employers to come pick them up.”
Instead, Marin-Molina said, employees at the apartments located at 3400 Treeline Court tell their tenants that they must wait for potential day labor hire in the parking lot across the street. Once there, however, tenants said the police arrives and tells them they can’t assemble there.
About 40 hispanics protested this morning on Lorna Road for better access to jobs and the living conditions at the Treeline Apartments Tuesday August 21, 2012. Hoover Police arrived on the scene shortly after the protest started checking permits and directing traffic on Lorna. (The Birmingham News/Joe Songer). Watch video
This area in Hoover is known as a place where contractors, builders and others looking to hire day laborers can find employees, said Marin-Molina. For at least 13 years now, she said, day laborers have stood on the various sidewalks across Lorna Road waiting for a chance at employment.
“They used to gather together at the Chevron down the street,” said Marin-Molina.
Over the years, groups of day laborers, largely Hispanic immigrants, have made their way into the community, often living in places such as the apartment complex at 3400 Treeline Court.
“Employers know they can find them here,” said Marin-Molina.
Regardless of the long-established routine, however, those seeking employment say they have faced repeated harassment in more recent years.
“When they try to wait for jobs outside the apartment complex,” Marin-Molina said, “employees tell them they have to leave the area or go back to their room. These people are just trying to get jobs.”
Earlier this week, said Marin-Molina, a group of about 50 people tried to hold a meeting in one of the apartments. Almost immediately, she said, an apartment employee told the group they could not gather in the apartment and had to leave. When police arrived, they told tenants they could remain, but told everyone else they would have to leave, said Marin-Molina.
Although they continue to live and try to assemble at the apartments, the housing conditions are far from respectable, Marin-Molina said.
“When you talk to the workers, the people who live here, they tell you about bugs and leaks in the apartments,” she said. “Even when they complain to management about the conditions, nothing is ever done.”
Herman Arturo Hernandez, who has lived in apartments for three years, said he was recently notified that he had seven days to vacate the premises. When his unit flooded, he said, management began repairs, but quickly informed him that he would have to leave.
“They didn’t give me an option,” Hernandez said.
Management, he said, did not offer to help relocate him, nor did they offer him a place to live temporarily on the premises. The last he heard, he would essentially be able to retrieve his initial deposit, but he had no idea when that would happen. Six other apartment units faced the same fate, Hernandez said. According to a press release, when displaced tenants requested to be transferred over to empty apartments on site, management refused.
“We have the right to assemble, to look for work,” he said.
Today’s protest group held signs and chanted over megaphones. “We deserve rights, we want respect,” they said. In the first hour, at approximately 8 a.m., Hoover police began to arrive on scene.
Officers on scene refused to comment.
Captain Jim Coker of the Hoover Police Department, who was not on scene, said that the issue was not with the city, but with the apartment complex.
“There’s not a whole lot to comment on,” Coker said. “[The protesters] aren’t presenting any problems for us. They are on the right-of-way, between roadway and sidewalk; they haven’t been an issue for us. Their issue is with the apartment complex, not with the city.”
When asked about Marin-Molina’s claim that the police recently asked a group of supporters to move a planning meeting somewhere else, Coker once again said the issue was not a matter that involved a problem between demonstrators and the police.
“It’s strictly between them and the apartment complex management,” Coker said.
An employee on scene refused to comment.