Race And Class In Katrina's Aftermath

Blacks and whites are together in this. The history of New Orleans has always been one of racial mixture on many levels. People outside the city often don't understand how vital the racial mix is in New Orleans, and what locals have achieved in cooperation over the centuries.

The problem now has to do with insurance companies and the government; it has to do with people not receiving the services and assistance that they've paid for, through premiums to private companies, and through taxes to the government.

I wish I had more specific things to tell you. I hear specific things every day: huge water bills for fema trailors; insurance refusing to cover houses that people are trying to buy; lack of goods and services. It goes on and on.


Staff Attorney, Immigrant Justice Project

Southern Poverty Law Center

"Particularly with the employment context I think we saw the problems with race and class highlighted immediately after the hurricane when we saw many corporations luring migrant workers from all across the United States to do the reconstruction work with false promises of good wages and good working conditions and we're still seeing that behavior continue as local employers in New Orleans trying to use the Guest Worker program to bring in foreign workers now from places like Bolivia and Peru once again with false promises of good wages and working conditions that turn out to be lies. But what we're seeing developing is a movement in New Orleans of workers to fight back against that behavior and to promote the rebuilding of a city that includes survivors that have been locked out of those jobs and includes fair working conditions for everyone, particularly the New Orleans Workers Justice Coalition is a group that has been actively working with affected workers both African American workers and Latino workers, helping them come together and stand up together against corporate greed and not allow the most vulnerable workers to be exploited."

"Some of the most positive efforts in the employment context are being lead by the New Orleans Worker Justice Coalition which is a coalition of groups in the New Orleans area, with a grass roots base, demanding that the reconstruction of this city be done in a way to protect the survivors who want to return home and protect new immigrant workers who have come to New Orleans to participate in the rebuilding and to bring those groups together to demand justice and demand fairness and demand respect."

"Government in action has hindered progress on this point. For instance, the failure of the U.S. Department of Labor to immediately enforce the protections of federal law for workers in the hurricane allowed the outrage of levels of violations of minimum wage and overtime laws which we're all now still trying to deal with and trying to recover the wage theft that occurred immediately after the hurricane, and the same way the U.S. Department of Labor certified that no local workers were available and certified a prevailing, a low prevailing wage for hotel jobs in a context where there are many workers who are trying to come back to the city and trying to locate fair jobs at the living wage."

"I think that the U.S. Department of Labor should cease certification of guest worker jobs in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast and that the employers should be forced as the law requires to hire local workers at living wage rate and treat them according to the law."


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