Working in the Summit County community’s hardest jobs |

Working in the Summit County community’s hardest jobs

Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

DILLON ” Jonas Rivas works eight hours a night as a dishwasher at Samplings in Frisco. His shift ends at 12:30 a.m. Seven hours later, at 7:30 a.m., he shows up at Team Temp in Dillon, looking for a day job.

Rivas, a 24-year-old from El Salvador, works 16 hours a day five days a week. Every morning, he wakes up “ready to go” to his next job. But he’s not just working for himself. He has a dream: He wants to bring his family from El Salvador to the United States.

“It’s a beautiful country,” he said of the U.S. Plus, he loves skiing.

Wednesday morning, Rivas started his new job at Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge. He separates dirty linens into specific bins eight times a day. He also stocks clean linens and amenities, sweeps, empties trash and moves furniture. It’s people like Rivas who work behind the scenes to give Beaver Run Resort a good name.

“(People) attending the conference said to me, ‘Wow, you have the most friendly and service-minded staff in the company,’ … ‘On a scale of one to 10, the service provided by the Beaver Run staff is an 11,'” wrote Joe Shackleton in a memo to his employees at Beaver Run.

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But Beaver Run employees aren’t the only ones building a good reputation for resorts. Throughout Summit County, Latinos do a majority of the housekeeping and other “dirty” jobs. Some are here legally, others are not.

Illegal immigrants make up a large share of the workforce in occupations that don’t require government licensing or education. For example, about a quarter of all drywall and ceiling tile installers, meat and poultry workers and dishwashers nationwide are illegals, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Employers can pay illegal immigrants ” who often show false identification to get hired ” less than other employees. The average family income in 2003 for unauthorized migrants living in the U.S. for less than 10 years was $25,700. In contrast, the average family income for legal immigrants and native borns was about $47,700, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Hugo Luna, a 22-year-old from Aguascalientes in central Mexico, made $8.25 an hour cleaning floors and elevators and doing repairs at a Keystone condominium.

One of the changes many local employers made about three years ago involved paying housekeepers hourly rather than per room; now, a fast employee who does a good job gets paid as much as one that does half the work, and that causes some complaints, said Tony Gancev, owner of Team Temp in Dillon.

Some Latino coworkers say they don’t get paid enough for difficult jobs, Luna said. But even at $8.25 an hour, the weekly wage is about five times as much as he could make in Mexico. And now he makes even more working through Team Temp.

After having worked at Keystone for a year, Luna hopes to stay in Summit County one more year before he returns home to Mexico. Right now he’s saving money to fix his parent’s house in Mexico and hopefully start a family and have a house of his own, he said.

According to an August Pew Hispanic Center survey, more than 40 percent of Mexican adults said they would move to the U.S. if they could, and 20 percent said they’d do it illegally if necessary. Most want to come to the U.S. to make more money and join friends and family who are already here.

But for Luna, life in Summit County is lonely. His brother lived here for two years, but now all of Luna’s family is in Mexico. Here, he goes to work, then goes home. On Sundays, he goes to church. Though he talks and laughs with his coworkers, he counts one “amigo,” his roommate.

In Mexico, he would go to different “pueblos” every night with his buddies to “look at the ladies.” Here, there is no place to go, he said.

So he focuses on work.

While some people argue immigrants take jobs away from natives or drain the economy, some research shows a different story.

For example, immigrant households paid about $133 billion in direct taxes to federal, state and local governments, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

In a county that thrives on entry-level jobs to run ski resorts and restaurants, people such as Rivas and Luna ” who speak English well enough to get by and who feel happy just to work and save money ” are a significant part of the economy.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at

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