Looking for work through a street job market in Williamsburg

On Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. on the corner of Marcy and Division Avenues in Williamsburg, 26 Polish women waited hoping to get a cleaning- job offer. Forty minutes later the group grew to 100 more people.

Most of them left the street job market empty-handed.

“Jewish people are not hiring,” says one of the women. “They all went to the mountains. It’s hard to get a job nowadays.” The woman explained that in the summer many Jewish families from Williamsburg go to the Catskill Mountains.

With a majority of potential employers gone, the job market is very hard. The lucky women who are offered a job are usually hired for only four to five hours. With an hourly rate of $7 to $8 one can earn about $40 per day. “How to survive, when the rent is so high?” asks a woman from the group.

Not all of these women see cleaning jobs as the only kind of work in their future. Joanna, the only one from the group willing to identify herself, says, “I want to earn enough to pay for two semesters of my studies [in Poland].” Joanna, who is an economics major, came to the United States two weeks ago. She left her husband and two sons (5 and 7 year olds) behind.

The women, looking for jobs on the streets of Williamsburg, say that once Europe becomes more open, they won’t be looking for employment in the United States anymore.

The street job market moved around a couple of times. First, it was located on the corner of Hooper Street and Lee Avenue, but after the area store-owners complained that the women blocked the sidewalks, it moved to the corner of Marcy and Division Avenues. Efforts to move this curious meeting spot to the Hispanic Church of Transfiguration at 280 Marcy Ave., were unsuccessful. The Polish women prefer to wait outside.

There is another place, similar to the Williamsburg street market, where women of different nationalities gather in search of a job. It’s located beside a bridge on the BQE. The majority of women gathering at that spot are Polish, but many Hispanic, some Russian and Ukrainian women join them. Many women

complain about the work conditions. “We rarely get a mop, so we clean the floors kneeling. Look at my knees,” one of the women says rolling up a leg of her pants.

The Polish women think that some employers are very demanding. Some do not even offer a drink during hours of hard work. Some others, though, give a few extra bucks for the commute.

The U.S. dollar exchange rate is the main factor motivating many Polish women to come to the United States in search of a summer job. In a couple of years, the European job market should become accessible to Polish people and that will be an alternative. However, if the U.S. dollar continues to stand strong, plenty of people will travel across the Atlantic to stand in the street job markets of Williamsburg.

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