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How Tucson’s Southside Worker Center has helped undocumented workers earn fair wages over decades

On a hot, late-September morning, Reggaeton is pumping out of the Nissan Frontier pickup truck, and 52-year-old Pedro Sánchez is shaking his hips, bopping his shoulders. He’s dressed in a turquoise bandanna to catch the sweat if he lands a job today. Big shades are perched on his hat bill. A Gus’s Landscaping long-sleeve shirt, and a metal studded belt hold up jeans that are too big for him.

Pedro has been showing up to work five, six, sometimes seven days a week for the last 18 years. Except that he has nowhere, exactly, to show up to. A freelance construction worker without papers legally allowing him to work in the United States, he struggles to find and keep jobs, get paid on time (or get paid at all), or get compensated for injury.