Erika Engle

Lynnette Richards of Labor Ready hands out paychecks to day laborers Jeff Gooder, center, and Elijah Golden.

End of the day pay
draws workers

Donovan Lam is retired at 54 after shedding his shell lamp business a few years back, but he has worked at Island Movers Inc. for about the last three years. It's not Island Movers that pays him at the end of every pay period though, but Labor Ready Inc. that pays him each day.

Lam had been finding work through another temporary agency but switched to Labor Ready after seeing the sign "Work today, get paid today."

"I like the atmosphere," and "I don't have the pressure," he said. He can choose to go in on a Monday morning or not, he said.

47-year-old Brian Berg describes himself as a world traveler who likes "the freedom and flexibility" day-work gives him.

He taught English in Japan during the bubble period and has worked as a civil service scientist for the U.S. Navy.

"I just don't like the 9-to-5 lifestyle. I'm not against work, I've worked since before I was 16, but I just like the personal freedom."

The work enabled Berg to save for a planned seven-week trip to Thailand later this month.

Washington-state-based Labor Ready doesn't pretend to be one of the temporary help giants, though it does have 790 branches in North America and the United Kingdom.

"Our niche is providing low-skilled workers and temporary manual labor within certain industries, like construction, light manufacturing, retail warehousing or light industrial, said Stacey Burke, public relations director. "We're the folks who are sweeping up a construction job site, restocking shelves after stores close at night, that sort of thing."

The company's work force includes adult students, retirees, people re-entering the job market, people recently laid off or the underemployed. Others just enjoy being able to work when they want or need to, Burke said.

"There's flexibility built into the job, in other words if you have family needs or are working around a school schedule or another job and you can or you need to work today, you can walk into a Labor Ready branch office today, go to work today and at the end of the day you'll be paid."

Workers show up at either the Honolulu office at 1695 Kapiolani Blvd. or 99-082 Kauhale St. in Aiea, and fill out an application that helps the company record all the required information.

"As soon as we've got that, we can put you to work. If you have special skills or abilities, note that," Burke said. Those who know how to hang drywall, for example, will be assigned to those kinds of jobs before workers with no experience, she said.

People who feel unemployable following incarceration may find transitional work through Labor Ready.

"Our mission is to put people to work and provide opportunities. To that extent we'll certainly give people in all sorts of life situations the opportunity to advance themselves," Burke said.

Workers' pay depends on each employer, and each is required to pay for a minimum of four hours' work, said Honolulu Branch Manager Roxanne Yamamoto. Hourly pay starts at minimum wage, but most jobs pay more, Burke said.

Labor Ready does the payroll work and bills employers weekly. It also covers workers' compensation insurance. Neither workers nor employers pay retainer fees, Burke said. Instead, Labor Ready takes a margin between what its clients pay and what it pays out to workers, she said.

"It's important in this economy for businesses to be able to have access to a flexible work force. They have to be flexible, to react to business demands, and so the value to businesses is obvious," she said. Labor Ready provides them with day-workers to meet a rush of orders at peak season, for instance.

Employers who use Labor Ready hire a few at a time or by the dozens, like Nick Creighton, Hawaii supervisor for San Diego-based Arise/Waco Scaffolding & Equipment. The company erects and dismantles scaffolding, primarily doing work for the U.S. Navy.

One day last week he scooped up 15 day-workers, another day it was 20. "It could be from two to 30," he said.

"I have regular employees but I bring in Labor Ready when we get real busy. They've been great to us," Creighton said. He described the workers at "outstanding."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


E-mail to Business Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --