By Erik Luna
On any given day, most people who walk the streets of East Los Angeles can see various street vendors walking with their assorted products for sale. What most people don’t see are the citations these vendors get for going out and trying to earn an honest dollar.
Most of these vendors usually sell a wide variety of snacks such as churros, corn on the cob, cups of shaved ice, chips and sodas. I have seen these vendors literally sprint away with their carts of snacks because the police are in the vicinity.
People usually look at these vendors with pity, saying to themselves “They should get a real job.” What they don’t understand is that most of these people don’t have their papers. They do this, not because they are lazy and don’t want an actual job, but because this is the only way they can make money.
Juana Mendes, a street vendor, has been selling these snacks for about three years. She admits that the only reason she goes out to sell these items is because she does not have her papers. She said that she had just recently been stopped by police for selling snacks near Hamasaki Elementary School on First Street and Mednik Avenue. She also said she had a court date pending. Although Mendes was not fined at that moment, this doesn’t mean that it’s still not a possibility in the future. A fine of $200 to $300 can still be set at the time of the court date.
So why are these people treated like criminals, if they are only making an honest living? They are not selling anything illegal, they are not causing any trouble, so why is it that they must work with a fear of receiving a citation?
Mendes said that sometimes when police officers stop street vendors, an official from the Health Department is with them. Mendes said that the biggest problem authorities have with street vendors are the corn on the cob and the shaved ice in a cup.
Most vendors don’t use gloves while serving, so this may cause the passing of harmful germs to a consumer. At times these vendors will even have their merchandise taken away by police, which puts them out of business for a while. The cart that they carry their product in is usually custom made and can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 to make, so having this taken away is a big deal.
Although I agree with authorities that vendors should take the precautions necessary to avoid germs are not being passed on to the consumers, it’s wrong to take their carts away. Police and health officials should make it obligatory for vendors to carry food servicing gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer. It wouldn’t kill all the germs, but it would decrease the chances of them getting passed on. These people work hard days, lugging around their product throughout East Los Angeles. They should not have to worry about getting their belongings stuff taken away, or getting a citation.