Presentation on theme: "Getting a construction job in post-Katrina New Orleans: Race, nativity, and luck Elizabeth Fussell Washington State University & Abel Valenzuela University."— Presentation transcript:
Getting a construction job in post-Katrina New Orleans: Race, nativity, and luck Elizabeth Fussell Washington State University & Abel Valenzuela University of California, Los Angeles
The post-Katrina construction boom reorganized NOLA’s construction labor market Heightened competition Local construction workers and small contractors disadvantaged Displacement and losses Skill set and scale of operations Federal suspensions overrode formal and informal rules and regulations Arrival of non-local contractors and workers, notably Latino immigrants Competition is often framed as racial (Latino-Black)
The Evolving Construction Labor Market in Post-Katrina New Orleans First Stage: clean-up, debris-removal, building demolition, installation of “blue tarps” on roofs, and repair of urban infrastructure Second Stage: repairing private homes, businesses, and urban infrastructure Current Stage: restoration or improvement of hospitals, schools, and public housing projects Ratio of unskilled to skilled construction workers decreased with each stage
New Orleans as a Recovery Machine Recovery machine: Developers, local business elite, and outside construction contractors Post-Katrina federal funding regulations privileges recovery machine and disadvantages local contractors and construction workers Two construction sectors Large federal contracts for infrastructure and rebuilding projects Residential construction
Data and methods Focus groups with construction workers: Day laborers (Latino immigrants) Low-skill workers (Black & White native-born) Job corps participants (Black & White native-b) Skilled union workers (Black native-born) In-depth interviews with Independent construction contractors (Black & Latino native-born) Interviews transcribed, translated, coded, and analyzed Our respondents worked mostly in less robust residential construction
Research questions How do construction workers find employment in post-K New Orleans? What do they perceive as obstacles to obtaining construction employment in post-K New Orleans? How do skill-level and union membership differentiate job search & hiring? How do race and nativity figure into workers’ accounts?
Unauthorized Latino immigrant day laborers Search processes: Search at day labor pick-up sites or “corners” Initial clean up and rebuilding provided many job opportunities Numbers at corners declined since 2007 Day laborers earn little, accept risks Day labor work rarely results in steady employment with a single employer Scarce employment increases competition and undesirable behavior on corners
Native-born or legal immigrant low-skill workers Search processes: Multiple, anonymous search processes Job training programs for young, inexperienced workers Social networks are more effective but still limited by stratified and local networks Shun day labor sites because of stigma, fear of police harassment, or improbability of getting work Perceived obstacles to employment: Job competition between immigrant and non- immigrant construction workers Employers’ distrust/fear/racism
Native-born skilled union workers Search process: Construction trade unions no longer effective Social networks better sources Workers supplement income with work in other occupations Obstacles to employment: Steady erosion of unions and workers rights Post-Katrina regulatory suspensions created a “free” labor market with lower wages and few worker protections Out-of-control subcontracting lowered wages Outside contractors outbid locals and engaged in unscrupulous practices
Native-born skilled contractors Search processes : Name recognition and reputation Social networks Advertising or cold-calling business or homeowners Obstacles to employment : Lack of name recognition and reputation Underbidding by non-local companies who hire day laborers or non-local workers Lack of relationship with non-local contractors Contractors avoid regulation by subcontracting
Discussion Search processes strongly related to skills, race, and nativity or legal status Social networks governing pre-K labor market no longer work effectively for any skill level Latino day laborers and Black low skill workers isolated from employers generally Skilled workers and contractors are isolated from non-local employers Post-Katrina regulatory conditions and nation-wide recession increase competition with non-local companies and workers Competition between locals and non-locals viewed as Latino-Black competition Black exclusion and Brown exploitation is not unique to New Orleans How to re-establish regulations to set a wage floor and re-establish labor regulations?