Saturday, September 24, 2005

Who Will Rebuild New Orleans?

Who should rebuild New Orleans is displaced New Orleans people—mostly black but also poor white-- who have lost their jobs and homes. The government should set up a large federal project restoring the wetlands that protect the city and rebuilding the city itself. The jobs should be above minimum wage and with benefits.The government should set up a program like the Works Project Administration (W.P.A.) that the New Deal had during the Depression that put unemployed people to work buiding everything from the San Francisco Gate Bridge to schools, libraries, roads all across the nation. The W.P.A. was incredibly successful helping people reconstruct their lives as well as building bridges, roads and buildings we still use today seventy years later.

Is this going to happen? No.

President Bush has already suspended provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act that requires the government contractors to pay prevailing wages in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Also the Department of Homeland Security has suspended sanctions against employers who hire workers with no documents.

So who will be hired? Not blacks from New Orleans who were instrumental in creating the rich culture of the city and who have been left with nothing. Not poor white Cajuns whose families have lived in the region for 200 years also instrumental in creating Louisiana's culture. Not them. Oh no.

Government contractors are hiring Latino immigrants from Mexico and Central America and sending them to Louisiana. Gregory Rordiguez in the September 25, 2005 LA Times reports that these male workers “live outside New Orleans in mobile homes without running water and electricity.” Rodriguez quotes President Bill Clinton on NBC’s “Meet the Press” saying that “New Orleans will be resettled with a different population: the evacuees will be forced to relocate and will be replaced by poor Latinos.

One subtitle Rodriguez uses in his article is “Latinos to the Rescue,” point out the many contributions of immigrant labor. Indeed, immigrant labor including Mexican immigrants have made huge contributions, but New Orleans could very well be rescued by the labor of its own citizens, giving them a decent life in the process. Instead the government will exploit desperately poor Latinos in order to rebuild the city. Of course, any workers who help to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf should be given legal status, electricity, running water, and wages above the minimum.

But the jobs should firstly go to people from New Orleans who have been forced out so they can return to their city to rebuild their city, their neighborhoods, and their lives. We should pressure Bush to follow the previsions of the Davis-Bacon Act that requires the government contractors to pay prevailing wages in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. We should pressure Bush to restart a Works Progress Administration . We should have government contractors hire evacuees and house them in trailers with electricity, running water, and a decent wage. We should also demand that any immigrants who work rebuilding New Orelans be given legal status, basic rights and a decent wage. That's the way New Orelans should be rebuilt.


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Aisha Willis said...

What an idea? The only problem I can see with it is that it makes too much sense. I'm from Dallas where a lot of the evacuees are and many have expressed a desire to return home and start again but it won't happen. Let's not forget the city needs to be completely redone not just patched and bandaged but no they will probably go in and do just enough to legally inhabit the place. Oh well. America, the beautiful.

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