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July 2013
The Latin Labor Difference
By Carol Gifford

     Finding a job is still tough in North Carolina. The state’s May unemployment rate was 8.8 percent, slightly improved from earlier in the year, but still higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. Unemployment rates in North Carolina have been consistently higher than the national average during the Great Recession and its recovery.

     For workers with low skills or spotty work histories, finding employment can be very frustrating. One avenue to full-time employment is temporary work, and Latin Labor Staffing excels in finding temporary work opportunities that can often provide a regular employment record and lead to full-time employment.

     Irma Garcia lost her job when she had to take time off to care for her sick baby. She was not sure how to get back into the workforce until a friend suggested she contact Latin Labor Staffing.

     Garcia, who lives in Charlotte, was placed in a temporary position with GiftTree, a company based in the state of Washington that recently located a packing warehouse in Charlotte.

     “I started working there in September,” says Garcia. “I was working one shift, filling baskets and putting together towers. It was a good job and I had steady work.

     “In March, I got a full-time job with GiftTree. Now, I’m doing set-ups,” beams Garcia, who credits her new job to her work with Latin Labor Staffing.

     “To find a job, you got to know the companies really well, and I didn’t know any,” she continues. “I really like them [Latin Labor Staffing] and I enjoyed working with them. They helped me get this job.”


All Who Want to Work

     Latin Labor Staffing offers staffing services in the Charlotte region for companies who need immediate help to fill labor needs. With offices in Charlotte, Gastonia, and Fort Mill, Latin Labor Staffing provides temporary workers to fill the production, manufacturing, and light industrial needs of companies in the metro Charlotte area. It also has an Atlanta office.

     “Oscar Covarrubias and Ray Hosseini started the company in 2005 as a staffing agency,” explains Ruben Arce, operations manager of the Charlotte office located on South Boulevard.

     “At that time, with a booming construction market, we would get calls from companies asking us for ‘Latin’ workers. So, we took advantage of that opportunity and coined the name, ‘Latin Labor Staffing.’”

     “We employ anyone who wants to work,” contributes Frank Colunga, senior account manager, who adds that employees must be legally able to work in the U.S. “Latin, Asian, African-American—any ethnicity is welcome.”

     The concept is simple. Employers contact Latin Labor Staffing with their needs. Latin Labor Staffing consults its database of employees and links its employees to a new temporary job.

     “What makes Latin Labor different from other employment agencies is our ‘personal touch,’” says Oscar Covarrubias, owner and president. “We give 120 percent to whatever we do.”

     The company employs around 850 people. With the growth of light industrial companies and business opportunities, Latin Labor Staffing has expanded its employee base and maintains a robust database of about 158,000 potential employees in the Carolinas.

     In the Charlotte region, Latin Labor Staffing has its employees segmented by zip code. It can contact about 60,000 potential employees through text message in just one zip code.

     Most employees come to the company through referrals. While Latin Labor Staffing advertises in ethnic channels such as Hispanic and Asian newspapers, Colunga says most people find out about the staffing company from friends.

     “We discourage applying online,” says Colunga. “We want people to come in and talk to us while they fill out an application. This gives us the chance to find out more about them—their skills and their needs. Our goal is to put people at ease—to get them to tell us their story.

     “That’s the secret of recruiting—understanding a person’s attitude. It’s gut and instinct and 25 percent of it is guesswork,” Colunga says, who adds that Latin Labor Staffing’s in-house recruiters are former plant managers and supervisors who understand the skills and attitudes needed by their client companies. “We take a brand-new person with limited skills and start them off at the lower-skilled jobs and see if the company can train them for other positions.”


Fulfilling All Needs

     With a database of roughly 50-50 men and women, most between the ages of 20 to 35, Colunga says Latin Labor Staffing is able to screen candidates for appropriate job placements. Some may need translators, others may need help filling out documents, and others may need rides to the job.

     “We know that many of our employees can’t work in the summer because their children are off from school,” points out Arce. “Others may only be able to work the third shift. Whatever their needs, we want to become part of their strategy.”

     That might include driving employees to work. Latin Labor Staffing started out driving employees in cars and then vans to worksites. It became such a popular service that the company now uses 66-passenger buses to take people to work.

     “We can deliver the employees for an entire shift in one bus,” says Colunga. “We can get them all to work on time, and improve the quality of their life by making sure that the other parent can have a vehicle at home for transporting children or other needs.”

     “They may need help with banking and guidance on how to deposit their paychecks,” says Colunga. “We’ll even take checks out to the worksite to make weekly payrolls. We’ve even delivered overtime checks for less than $30. It may be the difference between paying for food or their rent that month,” he points out

     “These are the proving ground jobs,” says Arce. “It’s a temporary work position with a company in which you can prove how well you can work. Many of these jobs can lead to permanent positions with the company.”

     Latin Labor Staffing also offers benefits to its employees and intends to include the Affordable Care Act as part of its benefit package.

     “We’re looking forward to being able to offer employees health insurance that includes health education, wellness programs, and preventative health visits,” says Colunga. “We can keep our employees healthy and help prevent turnover. Not only will it be a help to us, but we can help out other companies by assisting them as they work to implement the requirements of the new law.”

     With an in-depth understanding of their employees and skill levels, Latin Labor Staffing is able to seek out and meet the needs of local companies, says Covarrubias.

     Companies contact Latin Labor Staffing for assistance, and Latin Labor Staffing reaches out to new companies to offer assistance in staffing. Currently, Latin Labor Staffing works regularly with companies between 100 to 300 employees and approximately 30 companies that regularly use between 8 to 150 employees.

     The first step is to learn the company business and what its job needs are. Arce says he learns his customer’s business so that he can get to know and analyze if the company is a good fit for Latin Labor Staffing’s employees.

     “We find out the skills needed and how to operate the equipment, so we can provide on-the-job training to our employees,” says Arce. “First, we might go over the information at our office. We explain what’s expected and the business climate.”

     Freirich Foods, Inc., a meat processing plant in Salisbury, has used Latin Labor Staffing for its staffing needs for the past three years, according to CFO Doug Sokolowsk.

     “Latin Labor Staffing helps fill our seasonal labor needs. We add a second shift at our manufacturing facility for two months every winter and rely on them to recruit and provide the 40 to 50 people that we need for this short period of time,” says Sokolowski. “They have a track record of successfully recruiting a productive temporary labor force and also an excellent track record of following all employment regulations and laws.”

     Sokolowski says that Latin Labor Staffing is “hands-on in the training process and safety training, and that is important in the food manufacturing industry.”

     “They have been successful at providing repeat experienced and trained workers for each annual season,” adds Sokolowski. “This is important to us because training employees is an investment and we experience a savings when the same workers return the following year.”


All Response Team

     Latin Labor Staffing’s success in working with local companies also comes from its accessibility in the employment process.

     “Our hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and we are open on Saturday,” says Arce. “Our account managers provide a lot of personal attention; we’re all involved in the customer service end. We work until we get the job done; we stay late and we work on weekends. We stay until the order is filled.”

     Latin Labor Staffing’s work with GiftTree, the transplant company from Washington State, is a prime example. It included the provision of staffing to ramp up to begin employment and then staffing to provide employees to do the work.

     Latin Labor Staffing worked to set-up the company’s warehouse in October to fill orders for the upcoming Christmas season. In just 30 days, its employees helped set up shelving and rooms to bring in a workforce of 158 people to fill orders for the holiday rush season, relates Colunga. He says Latin Labor Staffing also consulted on pay rates, hours and shifts for the company.

     Wendi Estrada from GiftTree says the company began working with Latin Labor Staffing in June 2012, and picked the company because “its managers came out to visit, had competitive pricing, and they seemed like they would fit our needs.

     “We were new to the area and decided to give them a try,” Estrada says. “Latin Labor Staffing has very good service. They are very responsive to filling our staffing needs, many which are last minute. During the holidays when the amount of temps grew, they came on site and brought a time clock and badges to help simplify the process of tracking hours.”

     Overall, Estrada says, Latin Labor Staffing employees are hard working, friendly, and perhaps the highest compliment, “help us achieve our goals as a company.”

     “I also appreciate the fact that they listen to our feedback and really strive to send us employees well suited to our needs,” continues Estrada.

     “Every one of our employees has someone from our company go with him or her to the first day of work. It doesn’t matter if the start time is 5 a.m. or 12 p.m., we take them and introduce them to the job,” says Colunga. “We show the employee how to get to the job, what door to use, how to clock in, how to do the job, and where to go for breaks and lunch.

     “We want to make it an easy transition for them into the company,” he says. “Companies appreciate our effort, and it’s key for our employees to be successful.”

     “Light industrial work is growing in the Carolinas,” maintains Arce. “According to the Chamber of Commerce, manufacturing, assembly, and product assembly work is increasing. A recent study by the Urban Land Institute predicted that Charlotte will be transformed by 2050 by new businesses in light industrial and factory work, and subsequent changes in workforce development and transportation.

     “Companies will be seeking a trained and skilled workforce, offering even more opportunities for Latin Labor Staffing. Whatever the need, we will be ready to meet it,” affirms Arce.

     “Our success comes from knowing our industry,” says Covarrubias. “Flexibility in the workplace is the key. We will provide staffing for our customers based on the skill sets needed by both the companies and meeting the needs of our employees.”

     According to Covarrubias, 30 to 40 percent of his employees get permanent jobs through their temporary work with Latin Labor Staffing.

     “It’s not about keeping a person as a temporary employee forever,” says Covarrubias. “Most companies have a period, usually 30 to 90 days, when they will review work performance, offer them jobs and raise salaries. One of our recent clients hired 90 percent of our employees.

     “If we can help our employees find temporary jobs that lead to full-time positions, we’ve done our job.”



Photo: Fenix Fotography

Carol Gifford is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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