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In the Lawless Post-Katrina Cleanup, Construction Companies Are Preying on Workers

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-16-07 07:54 AM
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In the Lawless Post-Katrina Cleanup, Construction Companies Are Preying on Workers /

In the Lawless Post-Katrina Cleanup, Construction Companies Are Preying on Workers

By Brian Beutler, Media Consortium. Posted July 16, 2007.

After Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, construction companies have squeezed billions out of federal contracts with few labor regulations and almost no oversight, allowing outrageous worker abuses to occur.

After Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, tens of billions of dollars in federal and private contracts, the largest of which went to companies like Bechtel, Halliburton, and its then-subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root, were dispatched to New Orleans. The alleged goal was to fund a clean-up effort President Bush said would require "a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens." That, of course, never came to pass.

Thanks to its initial disastrous rescue effort, today, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) receives most of the blame for chaos in New Orleans. But it wasn't just FEMA. The anatomy of the failed reconstruction is complicated, but understanding what went wrong requires examining the Department of Labor (DOL).

The DOL has been in decline for a generation, suffering from long-term decreases in funding even as the number of people whose livelihoods it is supposed to protect has grown. Those problems have been exacerbated through the six and a half years of the Bush administration. But the consequences have never been more appalling than in New Orleans, where the failure of high-level DOL officials to require proactive oversight of reconstruction employers led to an endless string of abuses. After Katrina, employers, unfettered by rules, became less concerned with the task at hand than with profiting at the expense of workers without protection. They became predators in a lawless environment.

In the two years since the disaster, there have been thousands of testimonials -- issued to both government officials and private advocates -- about a wide taxonomy of abuses.The most frequent complaint workers cite is withheld wages, but almost as numerous are accusations of employee intimidation, toxic and hazardous working conditions, immigrant abuse, trafficking, exploitation and monetary extortion.

On June 26, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives, convened a hearing to investigate the origins of the abuses perpetrated by subcontractors and other employers against those working to clean up New Orleans. The subcommittee heard testimony from advocates, attorneys, organizers, DOL officials, and a man named Jeffrey Steele.

Now 49-years-old, Steele says he traveled from Georgia to New Orleans in the first weeks after the hurricane out of both a sense of duty and the hope that he could earn enough money to cover debts and, perhaps, collect some savings at the same time. A subcontractor he identified as the Reverend Carroll Harrison Braddy had recruited Steele and others in Georgia, promising $10 per hour, free food and lodging. Soon after he arrived, in a van full of similarly minded men, he learned that none of his employers were willing to pay him the full wage, or provide him with the sanitary living conditions, he had been promised.

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tanyev Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-16-07 08:07 AM
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1. Hijacking catastrophe.
The one thing they do really, really well.
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DBoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-16-07 09:12 AM
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2. Sounds like Iraq
1. Destroy a country/region

2. Allow lawless chaos

3. Bring in corrupt cronies, taking advantage of the chaos to funnel $$ in contracts

4. Profit!
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