Monday, December 19, 2005

Finding Work In New Orleans: Good News or Potential Tragedy?

Remember a couple of weeks ago I was complaining about OSHA's focus on the health and safety concerns of the large contractors and their failure to address the health and safety concerns of the mostly Latino workforce who are working on the smaller jobs throughout New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? (here and here)

Well, this is what I was talking about. The Washington Post had an article yesterday about how difficult it is for immigrant workers to find work. But that's just the beginning of their problems:
For those who find work, conditions can be abominable, with laborers such as Rico Barrios and his wife, Guadalupe Garcia, slashing through the cough-inducing mold on walls in flooded Lakeview with only thin masks to shield their lungs, even though she is pregnant. "It's hard," said Barrios, who is from Mexico City, his face glistening with sweat.
I can't tell whether this story is supposed to be happy or tragic:
Around midday, across from a church in eastern New Orleans, they spotted a woman in a garage, struggling with an armful of splintered wood. "I make you good price," Medina told her.

"How good?" Marie Croson responded.

Their first bite. Medina whispered something to Gonzalez and then blurted out, "Eight hundred dollars."

Then Croson was interested. She has been trying for weeks to get her house gutted. A church group from out of state had offered to do the work at no charge, but it backed off upon learning she had insurance, even though she has yet to receive a penny from her policy. A neighbor was demanding $4,000 to do the job, way more than she could afford.

"Bleach, too?" she said.

"One thousand dollars, and we finish at 5, 6 o'clock," Medina said.

She nodded her head and Arturo raced into the house, punching his bare fist through rotting drywall before the word "deal" had slipped out of Croson's mouth.

Two other friends, trailing in a separate car, joined them. After paying for gas, they'll each make about $150 -- their biggest payday in weeks.

"That was god-sent ," Croson told her friend Joyce Bennett.

Behind her, Arturo was emerging with an armload of mold-spotted muck that used to be Croson's living-room wall. A smile spread across his face. It was his first of the day.
Sounds like they could use a bit of "assistance" from OSHA.