Looking for work, trying to get paid, & eviction looms: WRP Days 2-3

The roving team of the Workers\' Rights Project spent the last two days roaming the city and talking to workers. The days are filled with moments when out hearts race with excitement and moments when they are heavy with sadness and frustration.\r\n\r\nWorkers face three major hurdles in this city. First, they frequently receive unfair wages and too often never see the money they are promised. We\'re talking whole weeks of work, sometimes two, and no money. One group of workers from South Carolina have been working for a couple of \"turkeynecks, who eat too much corn and chew bubble gum real fast\" on and off since November and have not seen a dime. These are skilled workers, doing brickwork, roofing, drywall, and more, that have not been paid a dime. They are powerless. Immigrant laborers, mainly from Mexico and Honduras, are threatened that they\'ll be turned over to ICE (Immigration Customs & Enforcement, one of the several subagencies of the former INS). Workers rely on word of mouth to determine which employers are reliable but unfortunately that information usually comes with their own experience.\r\n\r\nThe second hurdle is housing. Some workers live in hotels funded by FEMA. As a FEMA official I just bumped into said, \"Today is D-Day for many people.\" They were evicted. With no home to go home to, most of their families displaced in other states, and rents skyrocketing to New York-like rental prices, these workers end up squatting in many of the tent cities around the city and surrounding parishes. In one of these tent settlements in a main park in the city, workers are being charged exorbitant sums of money to pitch a tent. There is no running water or electricity. Port-a-potties are available for free, but showers cost $5 each. But, there\'s no stability here either because these workers, too, are being threatened with eviction at the end of the month. Perhaps they\'ll end up squatting in one of the many devastated and abandoned neighborhoods where the frames of homes still stand and workers huddle in the night. In the last two days, we\'ve spoken to many of these workers in shabby hotels, tent camps in parks, bakeries where they pick up hot donuts and share information, and gas stations where they wait for contractors to come by.\r\n\r\nThe third hurdle is safety. Many of the workers working in clean-up do not have the safety equipment necessary to prevent them from getting burned by toxic chemicals and inhaling dangerous fumes. Some employers require employees to purchase safety equipment and deduct the $30 cost from their day\'s pay. Other workers just go without. I\'ve seen the red, inflamed skin of a Honduran worker that did not look good. He had been in Kansas working in painting prior to arriving in New Orleans. Kansas, he said, was great and very pretty. New Orleans is awful. The pay is lousy and the work is dangerous. He had lost daily wages twice in the three weeks he had been here.\r\n\r\nTomorrow we head to one of the surrounding parishes to continue listening to stories that are starting to sound eerily similar.\r\n\r\nOriginally posted: http://bls-shn.blogspot.com/2006/03/looking-for-work-trying-to-get-paid.html



“Looking for work, trying to get paid, & eviction looms: WRP Days 2-3,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed August 11, 2022, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/30076.