Chet to the rescue—or not

Casual laborers may soon be able to find ways of getting jobs without having to go through the state labor office—and without having to chance a fine from the Sparks police.

This summer, the Sparks Police Department stepped up enforcement of a law that made it illegal for casual laborers who get up bright and early and hang out along Galletti Way to get temporary jobs helping people paint, mow or do construction tasks. This annoyed the casual laborers who’re just trying to make some dough. And it really bugged civil rights organizations who say people should have a right to work.

Responding to pressure from civil rights groups like the ACLU and the Alliance for Workers Rights, who brought up similar court challenges to show that the ordinance was unconstitutional, Sparks city attorney Chet Adams rewrote the law. On Sept. 10, he’ll read a proposal for a revised ordinance at the Sparks City Council meeting.

“I made some revisions to the ordinances clarifying what can and can’t be done to ensure that the First Amendment rights of the laborer are protected and to further ensure that the city’s interest in controlling the safe and orderly flow of traffic is also promoted,” Adams says.

The new ordinance would prohibit pedestrians from going out into street and flagging down motorists, or from soliciting motorists while those motorists are stopped for a stop sign or traffic light.

“The whole purpose here is people are entitled to drive their cars on the street without being distracted by in-person verbal solitication,” Adams says. Under the new language, employers could legally park their cars and go hire casual laborers.

Kendall Stagg of the ACLU worries that Adams may have still written another unconstitutional statute.

"He hasn’t given us the opportunity to read the proposed language or give feedback," Stagg says. "Frankly, no one from the city staff even bothered to tell us they were moving forward with this."