#BlackWorkersMatter to Petition Major Contractor, Rally at City Council to End Black Jobs Crisis

Media Advisory

Contacts: Jacob Horwitz, 504-452-9159jhorwitz@nowcrj.org

Alfred Marshall, 504-655-6089amarshall@nowcrj.org

#BlackWorkersMatter to Petition Major Contractor, Rally at City Council to End Black Jobs Crisis

What: 1) Community March on Woodward Design+Build to deliver petition for local hiring on its construction projects;

2) #BlackWorkersMatter Rally to end the Black jobs crisis in New Orleans

When & Where:

1) Community March on Wednesday, Sep. 30, 2:45pm, from Job 1 (3400 Tulane Ave) to Woodward Design+Build (1000 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy)

2) Rally on Thursday, Oct. 1, 10:30am, at City Hall (1300 Perdido St.) before City Council hearing

Who: Low Wage workers, Members of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice’s (NOWCRJ’s) Stand with Dignity, the Community Evaluation Commission, Show Me $15, UNITE HERE Local 2262, One Voice, SEIU, Alliance Institute, among others.

On September 30 and October 1, 2015, members and allies of NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity will hold two days of actions to make #BlackWorkersMatter.  City Council will be voting on a Local Hire ordinance Thursday for city construction jobs that will help provide jobs and career ladders to address New Orleans’ Black Jobs Crisis.

Black families are in deep crisis in New Orleans, earning only 50% of white families, with 52% of Black men facing unemployment and more than 50% of Black children living in poverty. The estimated $160 Billion in post-Katrina reconstruction has only deepened this crisis because of the exclusion of Black workers. Worse, giant contractor Woodward Design+Build is now actively seeking to derail a proposed Local Hire Ordinance that would help provide jobs and career ladders to Black New Orleanians.

On Wednesday, Stand with Dignity’s #BlackWorkersMatter Campaign will march on Woodward’s New Orleans headquarter to deliver hundreds of petitions calling on the company to follow Lemoine Company’s lead from the New Orleans East Hospital construction and employ 80% local workers on city construction projects. The petition also calls for Woodward to implement apprenticeship programs, pay at least $15/hour, and agree to community oversight.

On Thursday, the #BlackWorkersMatter Campaign will rally at City Hall ahead of an expected City Council vote on the ordinance. Members will testify on the consequences of the Black Jobs Crisis in New Orleans and the need for local hiring guarantees to build lives, careers, and communities.

10 Years After Katrina, Movement for Black Lives in New Orleans Offers National Lessons

Ten Years After Katrina, Movement for Black Lives in New Orleans Offers National Lessons

Audience of Thousands Joins Van Jones, Local and National Civil Rights Leaders in Virtual Town Hall

NEW ORLEANS, September 24, 2015—In a virtual Town Hall today attended by thousands, national and New Orleans-based civil rights leader shared stories and strategies from a decade of Black Resistance in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Town Hall, moderated by Van Jones, covered resistance to the privatization of schools and the expansion of the cradle-to-prison pipeline, the exclusion of Black workers from quality jobs, and resistance to the expansion of white power in post-Katrina New Orleans.

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City Council committee endorses plan to help disadvantaged find jobs with city contractors – New Orleans Advocate – 9/8/15

City Council committee endorses plan to help disadvantaged find jobs with city contractors

A New Orleans City Council committee on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a new policy that would connect local and disadvantaged workers with jobs generated by city contracts.

Councilman James Gray, who is sponsoring the measure at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, said he will place the measure on the City Council’s regular agenda next week so it can receive additional public comment.

The Hire NOLA policy is part of the strategy of the city’s Network for Economic Opportunity, which was introduced last year partly as a way to chip away at the reported 52 percent unemployment rate among working-age African-American men in New Orleans.

It calls for businesses with city construction, alteration or demolition contracts worth more than $150,000 to turn first to the city’s Office of Workforce Development as a source for finding new hires. Those contractors also would be required to demonstrate “good-faith efforts” to hire local and disadvantaged workers.

The policy also would cover any cooperative endeavor agreement between the city and a party receiving tax incentives for economic development projects valued at more than $150,000.

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Mayor Landrieu gets praise, suggestions for local hiring program – Times Picayune – 9/8/15

Mayor Landrieu gets praise, suggestions for local hiring program

By Richard A. Webster, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

September 08, 2015

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s new job hiring proposal won widespread support during the first public meeting on the issue Tuesday (Sept. 8), as members of the City Council, community activists, nonprofits and business leaders sang its praises.

Andre Kelly with the Associated General Contractors of Louisiana called Hire NOLA a “great idea” at the council’s Economic Development Committee meeting.

Members of Stand with Dignity said the proposed ordinance was “beautiful” and a “critical step for building opportunities” for low-income workers.

Councilman Jason Williams said that it could represent a transformative moment in how the city tackles the issue of income inequality.

“There is a real spirit of collaboration. It’s not a situation where people are outside the door protesting,” Williams said. “That makes me very hopeful that this city can one day look like Atlanta or a Houston in terms of the size of its middle class.”

Along with that praise, however, came questions about the program’s implementation, enforcement and whether there could be a ripple effect in other parishes that could hurt New Orleans workers.

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Organizing for a true reconstruction in the Gulf Coast: An interview with labor leader Saket Soni – Facing South – 8/26/15

Facing South

August 26, 2015

Organizing for a true reconstruction in the Gulf Coast: An interview with labor leader Saket Soni
by Allie Yee

Saket Soni is a national labor leader and an organizer of day laborers, immigrant workers, guest workers and others in New Orleans, the South and the country. He is the executive director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and the National Guestworker Alliance, which were formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to organize vulnerable workers in the city’s reconstruction.

Soni, who has written about his own experiences as an undocumented immigrant, has organized several successful, multiracial campaigns since Katrina, including an eight-year campaign that culminated in a $20 million settlement earlier this year for guest workers from India against shipbuilding company Signal International in Mississippi. Signal was convicted in February of human trafficking and other labor violations. The Workers’ Center and its affiliates have also achieved significant wins on immigration issues and living wage campaigns and have expanded their work across the country and internationally.

Facing South recently caught up with Soni to get his take on progress made since Katrina and lessons learned since the storm hit the Gulf Coast 10 years ago this week. This interview has been edited for clarity.

What brought you to the Gulf Coast after Katrina in 2005?

When Katrina hit, I was a community organizer in Chicago. I was knocking on doors and talking to low-income renters in Chicago’s South Side … When the levees broke, I remember it shattering the myth that people were doing OK. I was just trying to make sense of how a disaster like that could happen in the United States and how it could be followed by such extraordinary inaction.

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HANO boss wants ‘a fresh look’ at regulations for ex-convicts – The New Orleans Advocate – 8/24/2015

Two months after completing a 22-year stint in a Louisiana prison, Robert Benjamin is ready to use his newly attained freedom to reach out to young people and encourage them to choose a better path than the one that led him to jail.

“I was a renegade, but I’ve reformed, reframed, repented and redeemed myself,” Benjamin told the audience at a public hearing Wednesday at the Housing Authority of New Orleans.

The one thing standing in his way, Benjamin said, is finding a stable place to live. He’s living temporarily in a nursing home, unsure how to move forward with his desire to share an apartment with his sister at Marrero Commons, the former B.W. Cooper Housing Development.

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The People Who Rebuilt New Orleans Are Still Waiting to Get Paid – TakePart – 8/17/15

The People Who Rebuilt New Orleans Are Still Waiting to Get Paid

Estimates of the wages pilfered from construction workers after Hurricane Katrina run to the tens of millions of dollars.

August 17, 2015

Alexander Zaitchik has written for The New Republic, The Nation, Salon, Rolling Stone, and Mother Jones. He lives in New Orleans.

The parking lot of Lowe’s Home Improvement in the St. Roch neighborhood of New Orleans is much like the parking lot of other big-box building-supply stores across the country. The curb near the exit is what Latino day laborers call anesquina, or “corner,” where they congregate and wait for contractors with drywalls to install, or suburban dads with junk that needs hauling. Beginning at dawn, people with jobs of all sizes drive up to these corners and select workers to perform difficult manual labor for below minimum wage, or specialized work for as much as $15 an hour.

One humid evening in May around sunset, a few dozen men, most of them from Honduras and Mexico, are cracking beers and socializing around quitting time. A smaller group squats around a dusk-lit game of small-stakes craps.

Lurking on the outskirts of the game and sipping a soda is David Solomon Vasquez, an ebullient 24-year-old Honduran wearing a Dodgers cap. Vasquez has been coming to this corner since the age of 14, when he joined thousands of other Latino workers in a mass migration to the city in the roiling wake of the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm when it hit the Big Easy. Asked about his decade in New Orleans, Vasquez first recalls the horrors of the early days, when the detritus he removed from homes included water-bloated corpses. “Even months later, you’d find a lot of bodies,” says Vasquez. “In one attic we found an old lady and a young boy, her grandson. They were trying to escape the water, but it got them. Even after they removed the bodies, the smell stayed for days.”

The hanging stench of death proved a temporary aspect of post-Katrina New Orleans. Vasquez goes on to describe a more enduring feature of life for those who cleaned up and then rebuilt the Crescent City: rampant wage theft. Early in his tenure here, Vasquez learned that contractors could not be trusted like the contractors in Nevada, his first stop after leaving home. As the 10th anniversary of Katrina approached, Vasquez rattles off stories of employers cheating him out of his wages. Many of these stories involve threats of violence, including one from just the month before.

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VIDEO: Hurricane Katrina Didn’t Kill New Orleans—But It Almost Did – The Nation – 08/14/2015

At least seventy-one billion dollars in federal money has been spent on rebuilding New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit the city ten years ago. But has every opportunity been seized to bring back not just the place, but its people, so that both are stronger and healthier than before? How have federal, state and city policies affected the people of New Orleans?

From housing to economic development, activism to policing, Katrina irrevocably altered the face of NOLA. A new documentary from The Laura Flanders Show and teleSUR English explores the many ways in which the city has changed—and also how it hasn’t.

The film is produced and directed by Jordan Flaherty and executive produced by Laura Flanders and teleSUR English. Story producer is Marin Sander Holzman; camera by Joshua J. Bagnall, Melisa Cardona, Jonathan Klett, Abdul Aziz, and CrossPond Productions. Edited by Anna Barsan, Rebecca Scheckman and Jonathan Klett. Score by Drop Electric, with additional music by TBC Brass Band. Translation by Cynthia Garza.

Featuring interviews with Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, the commander of military relief operations during Katrina; former New Orleans city council president Oliver Thomas; current city council president Jason Williams; developer Sean Cummings; activists and former public housing residents Alfred Marshall and Toya Lewis; Brice White of the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative; spoken word artist Asia Rainey; youth activist Milan Nicole Sherry; and Rosana Cruz of Race Forward.

Also featuring Roy Brumfield, Leticia Casildo, Jolene Elberth, Fernando Lopez, Darnell Parker, Glenn Ross, Randy Silliman, BreakOUT!, Congreso de Jornaleros, Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, Oya Market, Ping Chong + Company, and STAND With Dignity.

A Movement Lab in New Orleans – The Nation – 8/13/15

A Movement Lab in New Orleans

The 10-year fight for a just recovery from Hurricane Katrina has driven a surge in innovative, progressive organizing.

The evening of Wednesday, May 20, was a night like any other 
in a town that, despite its near-demise a decade ago, persists as this country’s beating heart of creative chaos. By 6:30, the bars on Frenchmen Street were clinking to life. Around the city, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the TBC Brass Band, and Delfeayo Marsalis were among the world-class musicians preparing for weekly gigs. Tourists were already filling the strip clubs and daiquiri shops of Bourbon Street and the trendy restaurants of the recently gentrified Bywater neighborhood. And in Mid-City, in front of the First Grace United Methodist Church, a couple of women stood beside tables selling tacos and mondongo (pork-belly soup) to an intergenerational mix of Latino families.

There was no chanting at the BreakOUT meeting just over a mile away, in a former produce warehouse that is now a collection of artists’ studios and offices, but there was laughter. BreakOUT is an LGBTQ criminal-justice reform organization, and on this evening, a dozen transgender and gender-nonconforming young people were working and gossiping, creating a safe space behind a door with a welcome mat that read: come back with a warrant. The room felt like a mix of social club and office. A meeting started with a countdown exercise that looked like a free-form dance party, but soon those gathered got down to the business of assigning tasks for an event on the coming weekend. “Sometimes, I’ll just be so blown away to see how strong these youth are and how they constantly just keep fighting,” says Milan Nicole Sherry, 24, one of BreakOUT’s founding members and now a staffer. “They don’t take no for an answer.”

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