Local News

Malibu Labor Exchange
Posted by Richard Nava on Jul 15, 2007 - 10:44:00 PM

Richard Nava Malibu Labor Exchange Richard@canyon-news.com

It is easy to picture the celebrities, movie stars and millionaires who inhabit the city of Malibu, but the people behind the scenes taking care of the city’s needs are all too often overlooked.

The Malibu Labor Exchange has been active in Malibu for the past 14 years and is an prominent caretaker of the city’s needs. Originally started in 1993, the Labor Exchange strives to provide a better today and indeed a better tomorrow for many of Los Angeles and Ventura County’s hardest working individuals.

The Labor Exchange is essentially a middleman that helps to connect workers with local homeowners and business owners who are looking for people to work. The workers at the Labor Exchange have various specialties in gardening, architectural work, construction, and even domestic chores like cleaning houses and childcare. The average salary is $10.00 an hour and there are currently over 8,000 individuals seeking work in the Labor Exchange’s database.

Mona Loo, the Executive Director of the Malibu Labor Exchange, has been with the organization since December of 1992. Loo has been an integral part of the Labor Exchange since its establishment and said, “I have a tendency to pick up the ball, and sometimes I just don’t know when to drop it.”

The city of Malibu grants the Labor Exchange approximately $13,000 every year to help the Labor Exchange operate in addition to private donations, but more help is always needed.
According to Loo, who is a Malibu resident, the Labor Exchange was created and remains open thanks in large part to Malibu homeowners and local social activists.

“The biggest challenge is just to keep the doors open,” said Loo, “We know that many of the local residents don’t like us being here, but they don’t understand that these workers are just people doing the best they can to survive.”

The fact is that most of these individuals travel by bus from as far away as downtown Los Angeles looking for work on a daily basis. One of these individuals is a man named Rodrigo.

Rodrigo has been living in the United States for the past 17 years and has worked with the Labor Exchange for the last 6 years. He specializes in construction work, but is always willing to do whatever task is asked of him. Rodrigo stated that he enjoys the people and other workers at the Labor Exchange and is thankful for all the help he has been given.
Everyday 3 or 4 new workers, many single fathers like Rodrigo, seek work from the Malibu Labor Exchange. Contrary to popular belief, these workers are not all from Latin American countries. Loo said that she has worked with individuals from Egypt, Russia, Sweden, France and many other countries during the past 14 years.

“We are helping those who need help,” said Center Director Oscar Mondragon. “There is deep social value here.”

Mondragon began working with the Labor Exchange in 1993 after 20 years working with Cesar Chavez. Mondragon stated that he never planned to work with the Labor Exchange for this long, but was interrupted by Loo who said, “If I have to stick, he has to stick.”

Along with providing work to those who need a helping hand, the Labor Exchange is also helping to bring the Malibu community closer together. The Malibu Methodist church has organized the other churches in Malibu including the Catholic and Jewish congregations into a group that takes turns providing the Labor Exchange workers with coffee, soup and peanut butter sandwiches.

By helping hard working individuals find work the Malibu Labor Exchange has and is continuing to destroy cultural and socio-economic barriers in Malibu and its surrounding cities. Though the future of the Labor Exchange is uncertain, it will remain a glowing attribute to the Malibu and Los Angeles County community as long as it is allowed to continue its work toward a better and brighter future for all.