By Julio Sanchez
Street vendors should be allowed to exercise their economic rights and be able to provide for their families without being labeled as a criminal for working.
Providing for a family while working 40 hours a week is challenging, but to work beyond that while being neglected the right to do so, is admirable.
Many immigrants come to the U.S. with high hopes for a better life. Unfortunately, to achieve that dream, they must work jobs that others are not willing to do.
In Los Angeles, there are an estimated 50,000 street vendors making a living and supporting their families by selling foods, drinks and snacks on the sidewalk daily.
As if waking up around three or four in the morning to work on a sunrise to sunset shift wasn’t difficult enough, now street vendors have to fight for the right to earn a living.
Due to street vending not being a legalized occupation or business, street vendors have to avoid the police and could face a fine of up to $1,000 or be arrested. Many of these vendors are parents who are working hard so that their children can have a future. Their parents don’t want street vending to be their only option in life.
Street vendors are now fighting against the justice system to make sure that the work they do is seen as work instead of a crime. Rallies and campaigns have been organized and urge the city to legalize food vending on Los Angeles’ sidewalks.
For years, vendors have tried to legalize their business but have not seen any type of real change. Still, vendors end up being arrested or having their carts and materials confiscated by police.
Many individuals still condone the oppression that street vendors have to endure, and argue that street vending is a problem because vendors create litter and heavy crowding on sidewalks.
The overwhelming amount of discrimination and racism that surfaced when President Donald Trump took office seems to have lit a spark in the minority community. Vendors have been harassed by both the Los Angeles Police Department and individuals passing by, and now they are demanding being treated with the respect they deserve.
Much of the public is now supporting the vendors’ fight against an oppressive government. There have been several GoFundMe pages that have been created for vendors who have been taken advantage of.
Benjamin Ramirez, a Mexican street vendor, had his cart knocked to the ground by an angry individual claiming it blocked the sidewalk. Juan Macias, a street vendor, got his money taken from his wallet by the University of California Police Department for selling hot dogs without a permit.
Several vendors have found support within their communities and people from all over the country.
Street vendors Benjamin Ramirez and Juan Macias are only two of the many vendors that are getting help and support from the public after exposing the harassment that they received while working. Both received thousands of dollars in donations to continue to support their families until they can continue working.
Now street vendors are rallying together to legitimize their businesses by legalizing street vending, thus making their lives just a bit easier.
The perseverance and heart that one can show when there is no other option is remarkable. The change and progress that can be achieved when people unite for a good cause is astonishing. Street vendors are such a giant part of the culture in Los Angeles because they epitomize what it means to chase the American dream.
Luckily, street vendors don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and it seems like many people will continue to be able to get their “elotes” and “paletas” when desired.