5:30 am, 710 Cottage Grove Road

If you’re looking to get on a day labor crew at Labor Ready out on Cottage Grove Road, you’d better get up early.

“You’ve got to be here by at least 5:30 a.m.” says a man named Keith, who wouldn’t give his last name. “I get up at 4:30 or 5.”

But despite the early rising time, the guys still have to wait a long time. They won’t get on a job until 7 or 8 a.m. A Labor Ready clerk won’t let an Isthmus reporter talk to the roughly 10 guys sitting inside the office, drinking coffee and watching TV while they wait to be picked up. She also declines to answer questions about the work opportunities they provide, saying she’s too busy at the moment.

Keith — who is outside in the parking lot polishing his car while he waits — has been coming to Labor Ready off and on for about two years. He says the work and pay are good. Lately he’s been put on a crew doing concrete work, which he expects will be the case this morning. “I think we’re building the walls for a McDonald’s in Whitewater.”

– Joe Tarr

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