Friday, August 28, 2009

Day Laborers in New Orleans

From NPR:

Among the groups that have helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, one that is rarely mentioned is day laborers.

After the storm, tens of thousands of prospective workers came to the city in search of jobs. Casual laborers — hired by the day by homeowners or small contractors — are now an important work force in a city that still has years of rebuilding ahead. The trouble is, many say they don't get paid.

At the parking lot of the Lowe's home improvement store on Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans, between 20 and 30 men gather at sunrise. Trucks and vans pull in and stop just long enough to pick up willing hands and strong backs.

John Pace stands with a group of friends. They're all hoping for the same thing: a day's work that will pay about $100. Competition for the jobs is intense, and when you do get one, Pace's friend Sammy Davis says, there is no guarantee that you'll be paid. That has happened to him — and to just about every day laborer he knows.

"So, you just lost out on a whole eight hours or two days or whole week worth of work, where you ain't got no money to show for it," Davis says. "Then your kid's looking at you, your wife looking at you, and then you ain't got nothing to show for it. 'Oh, baby, I'm going to come back, get my money later on,' you say, 'this evening, about 3 or 4 o'clock, to pick up my money.' But then he don't show up at all." Click here for the rest of the story.


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