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Graton Uses Develops Day Labor Center with Consensus Process


Community: Graton, CA (Unincorporated Sonoma County)

Population: 1,850 (in 2000)


Since 2007 the Graton Day Labor Center has opened its doors to workers, employers, and community members to serve as a hiring site for day laborers and a community center to be enjoyed by all. Through a unique process of consensus building between community, government, workers, and business leaders Graton is home to a successful day labor center that serves the entire community.

Program Highlights

  • Recognizing the vast array of opinions and ideas about the construction of a day labor center, organizers from the Centro Laboral de Graton hired the services of the North Bay Consensus Council to achieve community agreement on the need and utility of a day labor hiring center.
  • The center has an ad-hoc Consensus Implementation Committee drawn from the original membership of the consensus board that addresses ongoing or new issues surrounding the center.
  • The hiring hall has grown into a community center used by for volleyball games, community meeting spaces, and a place to “hang out”.
  • The Center serves between 50 to 100 day laborers per day, most of whom find work in the vineyards. 
  • The center offers daily English classes, a women’s group, health promoters trainings, and is associated with a local bilingual theater group.

Lessons Learned

  • According to Lead Organizer Davin Cardenas, “a dedicated board of directors is essential” to the success of the Graton Day Labor center. Board members were critical in the negotiation of leasing space for the center, communicating between the center and the community, and the day to day operation of the center. Notably, the all volunteer 12 member Board of Directors is composed of six day laborers, and six outside community members.
  • By participating in community service projects, day labors at the center have opened up the center to other community groups and demonstrated their investment within the local community.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

While the small, unincorporated city of Graton in Western Sonoma County developed innovative approaches to collaborative, community engaging creation of a day labor center. Graton day laborers have long provided local vineyard and orchard owners with the additional labor needed. Yet before the Graton Day Labor Center opened in 2007, workers were hired in the out of doors. Opening the doors to the center was no small feat. Workers, organizers, community members, and a county board of supervisor all began working on the center back in 2003 when the services of the North Bay Consensus Council were sought. Through a multiple year process of consensus building, stake holders came to the decision to open a day labor hiring center within the community.

Since 2007 the role of the day labor center has grown into much more than simply coordinating the hiring process of contingent workers. The center provides daily English language courses, occupational safety courses, for workers. It is also associated with a theater troupe, a women’s group, and trains health promoters. These additional programs are made possible through volunteers and key collaborators. For example English language courses are made possible by a Santa Rosa Junior College ESL teacher and the Sonoma County Library Adult Literacy Program. Equally importantly, the center also opens its doors to the outside. Community groups utilize the space as a community center, while others simply come to hang out – pick up volleyball games are a daily occurrence.

Lead Organizer at the center says, “We’ve made mistakes, but we worked through them, but we really learn every day.” He credits the success of the center with staff, board, and worker commitment to a democratic and transparent day-to-day operation. The center continues to rely on community engagement and consensus building as it faces new challenges and obstacles. The Consensus Implementation Committee meets as needed to address concerns from within and outside of the center. Cardenas believes that “many residents have been converted; many who were skeptical or anti immigrant have visited the center and now are our allies.”


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