Latino migrant day laborers (LMDLs) live under challenging conditions in the San Francisco Bay Area. This study explored day laborer alcohol use guided by a structural vulnerability framework, specifically problem vs. non-problem drinking as perceived by LMDLs and how they cope with or try to avoid problem drinking given their broader environment. The study utilized ethnographic methods including in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews with 51 LMDLs. Findings revealed the considerable challenge of avoiding problem drinking given socio-environmental factors that influence drinking: impoverished living and working conditions, prolonged separation from home and family, lack of work authorization, consequent distress and negative mood states, and peer pressure to drink. While participants shared strategies to avoid problem drinking, the success of individual-level efforts is limited given the harsh structural environmental factors that define day laborers' daily lives. Discussed are implications for prevention and intervention strategies at the individual, community, national and international levels.