Tribal Ventures, in collaboration with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, opened the Good River Day Labor Pilot Project, on Monday, May 2.
Almost 50 prospective laborers arrived as early as 7 a.m. to sign up for the program.
The day labor project’s goal is to connect laborers with employers through the Tribal Ventures’ offices in the Keya Building (old Presentation College).
According to Jessica Hernandez, day labor coordinator, all jobs are subsidized on a sliding scale. Businesses pay 80% of the laborers’ hourly wage, while non-profits and tribal departments pay less – with the smallest percentage paid by Tribal elders and the permanently disabled.
All jobs are 8 hours per day, $10 per hour, and at the end of each work day, Tribal Ventures will pay the full amount entitled to laborers who present their timesheets.
Tribal Ventures will then bill employers for their share of the wages.
Employers who wish to participate in the program need to complete a worksite agreement and a daily requisition form. Once completed, employers may select as many laborers as they need for that day from the waiting laborers.
Tribal members, aged 18 and older, can sign up for the program with only a tribal ID. If a tribal ID is not available, a picture ID and proof of enrollment at Cheyenne River will be accepted. Because the Good River Day Labor Pilot Project is funded through a TECA grant, only tribal members are accepted as laborers.
“We hope to expand to assist non-tribal members if we can secure additional funding,” said Hernandez.
Tribal members who have completed the intake process can come to Tribal Ventures at 7:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, to sign in for the day and wait for employers.
With the lack of jobs on the reservation, day labor is the only option for some.
“It’s hard for a lot of people to find work around here,” said Charles Taylor, who worked as a day laborer during the program’s first week.
With three kids and one on the way, Taylor says one of the advantages of day labor is the daily payout.
“I like that they pay you that day. It’s good if you need pampers or something,” said Taylor.
Reservation employers also benefit from the one-day, no obligation nature of day labor.
Oti Kaga, Inc., a housing development non-profit, was one of the first employers to sign up to hire day laborers. The program has struggled in the past to find maintenance workers with good work ethics and consistency.
Michael Wright, Oti Kaga Maintenance Supervisor, understood that some day laborers need a little more direction.
“Some guys haven’t had a lot of work experience before so we’ve done some on-the-job training,” Wright said.
Oti Kaga director, Paul Hollow Horn, has not been disappointed in the workers he’s hired through GRDLP.
“When you see someone ready to work every day at seven thirty, you know that they are committed. It’s good to be able to try out a worker with no commitment. Once you find that good employee, you need to hang on to them,” said Hollow Horn.
Oti Kaga did just that- they hired one their day laborers, Numpa Bald Eagle, after he worked there just four days. Bald Eagle said the staff at Tribal Ventures was very helpful and made him feel at ease.
“I’m real appreciative of the Day Labor Project; it helped me find a job,” Bald Eagle said.
Not everyone has been so lucky. Nicole Yellow Horse and her son, Tristan Garreau, were the first to sign up on the first morning day labor opened. Although Yellow Horse has signed up at Day Labor every day it’s been open, she was not selected for a job, but she remained hopeful.
“I don’t want to give up; I love working. I see all the people who are here every day. I try to visit them and encourage people to keep coming back,” said Yellow Horse.
On May 30, Yellow Horse’s patience finally paid off, and she secured a one-day job helping an elder around their home.
For some workers, like Adrian Shillingstad, GRDLP has helped them find short-term employment closer to home.
“I love this program, I’m so grateful for it. I was thinking about going to Bismarck to work day labor there. I have three kids and I need to take care of them,” said Shillingstad.
For people who are ready to work, GRDLP might be the answer to help tide them over while they are waiting to be hired. They hope to offer more services to laborers in the near future.
“Soon we will start assisting prospective workers with resume building. We have already done skills assessments with many of those who have signed up, and we plan to offer them training in the coming weeks. We are so pleased to be able to help match employers with day laborers. We have new employers signing up every day and no shortage of laborers,” said Ducheneaux.
“This is a project for the people. It offers them the ability to hone their job skills and it’s an immediate economic boost for participants,” said Hernandez.