Gulf Coast Hospitality Workers Need to Sit on Oil Spill Santa’s Lap Now!

Financial Justice Louisiana Recovery Rebuild New Orleans

Nimages-1ew Orleans My darling and brilliant niece’s husband, an Australian bloke who we dearly love, was working this summer running a high end, specialty bar at the W Hotel on Poydras Avenue in New Orleans during the time of the terrible British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill.  My daughter, Dine,’ now a mainstay of the Local 100 United Labor Unions organizing staff in New Orleans and ever alert to both injustice and opportunities started telling me a couple of weeks ago about huge, wild settlements going to bartenders in the French Quarter, CBD, and even in our Bywater neighborhood.  The amounts were amazing:  $7000 to one, $17000 to another, and so on!  I was skeptical.  She cited Will Miller as an impeccable source, so I was moved, but wanted to know more.  Maybe this was just a benefit being sought and received by a secret society of New Orleans bartenders, rather than part of the Kenneth Feinberg compensation and damages program, official called the Gulf Coast Claims Facility?

With the deadline hard on us for emergency claims to be submitted (Close of business on Tuesday 11/23!), I didn’t’ want to start an irresponsible gold rush, if this was nothing more than rumor fueled by alcohol coming from the hands of the same bartenders.  I know not to trust the hometown paper as the ultimate authority on these matters, but all of their storylines had focused on oil workers, fishermen, and others barely staying afloat with graphic photos from the beautiful and damaged bayou country south of the city.  Why were we not seeing pictures of lines trailing out into the streets here in broke ass New Orleans, if money was falling from BP trees, especially in the always hospitality hard luck and humidity summer season?

My daughter – the organizer – felt the issue was that not enough people knew this was possible and were going to apply and get the compensation.   Pressed this week for more information, she confirmed that other conversations with hospitality workers in her haunts, I mean after more outreach and research, she had turned up servers and other “line” workers who had applied and gotten payments also ranging in the thousands of dollars.              Ok, I’m there!

In an abundance of caution I made one more last minute call before spreading the call for hospitality workers to rush the BP pay windows.  I reached out for Darrin Browder, one of the managing directors of the Restaurant Opportunities Center in New Orleans (ROC/NOLa) certain that he would have the down-low.  I missed him on the phone a little after 5PM, but within minutes Darrin was replying via email on his I-phone.  Yes, he had heard the same thing, and, yes, ROC had helped some of their members apply.  No, he did not know of any of their members that had received money yet, but he had also heard the big numbers that I was hearing.  In a further email exchange that evening, Darrin also reported that he knew a number of French Quarter restaurants had gotten anywhere from “hundreds of thousands to millions” of dollars from the BP claims fund.  He was skeptical about a number of them sharing their award with their workforce, but cited Emeril’s as the hero of this story.  The nationally famous restaurant in fact did share the award by giving their entire workforce a check when Emeril received his payment.  (Emeril had a famous misstep after Katrina where he was reported as publicly doubting the recovery, but this is a class move, showing the brother has learned something about live in our fair city!)

Finally to put an even finer point on it, there was a puff piece by Joe Nocera in the Times this morning that I saw as I was writing this, where he reported that he was chowing down with Kenneth Feinberg at one of those $20 per plate, $100 expense account breakfasts at the fancy Carlyle Hotel in New York City, and Feinberg was trying to organize a pity party for himself about how hard his job was giving out the BP $20 billion pot of claims money fairly.  Another fancy pants diner a couple of tables over – love these stories of the big whoops having a “class crises”! – overheard Feinberg’s loud moaning, and loudly yelled and repeated:  “Just.Pay.Them.”  (Buddy, if you read this somehow, send me your name and your breakfast is on Local 100 at Emeril’s!)  The whole bottom line of Nocera’s “talking business” column was “claim up,” “go for the gold,” and the heck with court.  Right on!  That was the final straw for me!

Find the claims office.  Google “Gulf Coast Claims Facility.”  Get your act together with your bank deposits and pay slips, and get your app in Monday or Tuesday rather than diddling around.   Feinberg can have his pity party about his tough job, but if there’s a check for a couple of thousand waiting for you for lost wages and tips and work during the Spill Summer, it’s time to cash in.

Here’s how:

  • Through the Website: You can complete the Claim Form online by going to the website and selecting “Claim Form.” The online instructions will tell you how to complete a Claim Form and how to submit the form and the supporting documents online.
  • By Visiting a GCCF Claims Site Office: You can complete a Claim Form and submit documents in person at one of the GCCF Claims Site Offices, where a Claims Evaluator will help you fill out the form. You may obtain a list of the GCCF Claims Site Offices near you by visiting or by calling the GCCF toll free number, 1-800-916-4893. TTY: 1-866-682-1758.

There’s some information on the website that indications a “regular payment” may be available for paperwork by August 2013, so don’t piddle, but there may be some play in this, too.

In the old HOTROC days we would be cranking out the Xerox machine with flyers telling people to CLAIM OIL SPILL MONEY NOW!   We would be making sure workers knew the score and were ready to roll.  In fact that’s not a bad idea.

Stella!  Chaco!  Where are you!!!!  We have work for you on Monday!!!

It’s Santa time!