The New West's servant economy

  • Ski areas of Colorado

    Diane Sylvain
  • Lakamy Maguiraga came a long way for a job cleaning rooms in ski country

    Ray Ring
  • Housekeeper Lakamy Maguiraga

    Ray Ring
  • Before dawn in Leadville, workers board the bus to jobs in Vail

    Ray Ring
  • What's driving the economy now: a skier at Copper Mountain Resort

    Ray Ring
  • Annette Carrica is on a mission in the trailer parks of Eagle County

    Ray Ring
 

Page 5

The City Market grocery in Avon, the shopping center for the Beaver Creek ski resort, stashes its workers upstairs, in an entire second-story of dedicated apartments. The McDonald's in Vail has worker apartments off the premises. Club Med at Copper Mountain keeps its cooks, housekeepers and dishwashers in an apartment building 25 miles away, over the pass in Leadville.

According to CEO Powers, Clean Serve made an effort to help the Africans. Jan Pilka, the local representative and himself a Polish immigrant, acted as chauffeur for some Africans who were placed in Leadville. Each morning, Pilka made the run over the pass to pick them up and bring them to their jobs, and every evening at the end of their work day he took them home. Pilka also worked a night job at the Hilton.

Powers, who visited Summit County regularly to try to keep things running, said he provided a car for Dabo's group, but Dabo said the Africans were expected to pay $600 for the car, and it broke down so often, they returned it and began using another car that was also unreliable.

"I'm only successful if I can place happy, good workers with my clients," Powers said. "One of my priorities is to listen to the needs of my workers."

Meanwhile, the Africans were paying $71.50 each per week to stay in Kremmling at the Modern Hotel, two to each room upstairs, pay phone downstairs.

Sharline Curry, owner of the hotel, said that when Pilka delivered the first Africans - two women - -he dumped all their stuff at the door. He didn't even help them carry it up (to the second-floor rooms). He just wanted to get rid of them, I guess. The next day, he dumped off three more (men) ... What can I do? It's 8 o'clock at night and dark and cold."

She said that often the cars in question "wouldn't run" and she had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to give the Africans a jump start.

After more than a month of that, Curry said, the Africans got to be too much of a burden on her and the other roomers. There was a hallway kitchen, and the Africans were taking food that belonged to other roomers, not recognizing it as stealing, just tribalizing the fridge.

So Curry called up the CEO: "I told the man in Atlanta how I felt about him too. I just told him, they have to move. I said you know and I know, you can't just bring in people from foreign countries and drop them. There's a shanghai law ..."

Racial discrimination also made it tough for the Africans. Powers said he had an apartment rented and ready for Dabo's group, but at the last moment, when the landlord discovered his tenants would be Africans, the deal fell through. "Several places didn't want to rent to people with colored skin. I was a little surprised to run into that out there."

"We are here for work," Dabo told me. "We are not here to do some-ting wrong. That is the problem for all African people here. They (Anglos) don't know him. They don't trust him. If you was in Africa, you don't have same idea about black people or Africans."

Black people are an anomaly here. An American black, Zenison Kirksey, who works as a bus driver in Vail, told me he was surprised that the two local Wal-Marts don't stock "black hair products' found in Wal-Marts elsewhere. "All Wal-Marts are supposed to carry the same things, you know, but they don't here. I have to drive down to Denver to get (the black hair products)."

Dabo's group turned down another apartment because of the cost: $1,300 a month plus utilities and deposit, Powers said. Another group of Africans accepted that situation and wound up moving out, angry, after a month and 19 days. The place had three bedrooms but only two beds, so most of the sleeping was on the floor.

"When the people move (from New York), they lose every-ting," explained Dabo. "You can't bring your bed. You can't bring your television. Many tings you lose, and when you come here you have to pay every-ting again."

A few weeks before I met them, Dabo had begun a rebellion, calling and writing Powers in Georgia, telling him that promises had been broken and at the very least, no more paychecks should be nicked for Natalie's benefit. Powers stopped making the deductions on paychecks of the complainers.

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