Help! My papi needs a job

Marketplace Staff Nov 5, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: Tomorrow’s unemployment numbers will give us the big picture. How many people who’re looking for a job can’t find one. Some people have to look longer and harder than others. Among older Hispanic men, for example, unemployment has tripled in the past couple of years. That’s according to a study released by the AARP recently. We could give you more statistics to explain why. Or we can let commentator Gustavo Arellano tell us the story of one older Hispanic worker he knows very well.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: Four months. Cuatro meses. That’s how long my father hasn’t worked. He was a truck driver for over 20 years, a short-hauler who took containers six days a week from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to warehouses across Southern California. One proud troquero, whose pre-dawn to post-sunset shifts gave his family a good, working-class life. Dad wasn’t laid off so much as phased out. New air-quality regulations made his truck obsolete. Papi’s 58 years old, so it makes no sense for him to buy another big rig. No trucking company will hire him, either. They can choose from thousands of other unemployed, younger troqueros. And his career options are limited. He dropped out of school in fourth grade in Mexico.

I’ve tried everything to find Papi a job: I tweeted about it, I asked my Facebook friends for leads. But, really, I can’t do much. My work world is one of overeducated, white-collar professionals. They have no use for someone like my father, unless it’s as a janitor, or a landscaper, someone to cook our drive-thru burritos. My dad says he’ll do those jobs; he doesn’t care. He wants to work. But me? I won’t allow it.

Nothing against the fine people in the service sector, but my dad deserves better. He already danced the immigrant shuffle in the 1960s, when he cut carpets in a Hell’s Kitchen-esque factory. And don’t believe Smokey and the Bandit — trucking ain’t easy. Papi paid his dues toward the American Dream. I don’t want to see or even think about dear old Dad, fighting people half his age for the right to make minimum wage.

Yeah, it’s pride on my part. But I owe it to him, for everything he provided us. I’m dipping into my meager savings to keep him and mom afloat right now. But I’m still looking. Hey, since this commentary is about the job struggles of Pops: any of you overeducated listeners in Southern California want to hire a good Mexican? He’s 58, but the hardest worker you’ll ever meet.

E-mail me:

Ryssdal: Gustavo Arellano’s column in the Orange County Weekly is called “Ask a Mexican.”

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