Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happenstance: Mayor touts EFS jobs as "great" but it's not all gravy



From The Republic.com

Juan Garcia, 34, and Jorge Castillo, 24, both from San Juan in the Rio Grande Valley, do the dirty work, including digging trenches, washing pits, building fences and moving rigs. They earn $13 an hour and pay $400 a month to live in a FEMA trailer.

But when there is no work, there is no money, and the bills and burdens continue to mount.
"Everyone thinks it's a good life, the oil field, but not until you get in do you find out it's not all gravy. I've been here three days. I haven't made any money," said Garcia, who before this drove a tow truck in the Valley town of Pharr.

Being away brings new problems, particularly if the money isn't flowing as expected.
"It creates marital stress. She calls and says, 'I need you to come help with the kids,' but I can't go," Garcia said. And even when he's with his family, he's never certain how long it will last.
"You give up all your rights. We're on call 24-7 even when we're home. If they call, you've got to come back," he said.

The two men talked two weeks ago while washing stained work clothes at a laundry in Carrizo Springs, waiting for the call to go back to work.

On the bulletin board was an offer of a $1,500 sign-on bonus plus $22 an hour for truck drivers. But it was a false hope. The job required a commercial license and hazardous materials experience.
Castillo, who hoped to become a crew leader, echoed a now-familiar refrain.

"People see we make money, but they don't see the hard life. There's no time to do anything for yourself. It's work, sleep. Simple as that," Castillo said as he folded fire-retardant clothing he bought at a Valley flea market. And getting one of those higher-paying jobs is a tricky proposition. "I'm keeping my eyes open, but it's like a mafia. It's enclosed, like a family. If you don't know someone, you ain't gonna get in," he said.

A few days later, Garcia was laid off and Castillo was promoted to crew leader.

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