New Orleans Voters Speak Out on Wages, Contract Enforcement, and Garbage

Louisiana Recovery Rebuild New Orleans Voting
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            New Orleans      Five weeks after Hurricane Ida hit the city on the anniversary of Katrina’s arrival, August 29th, we are still in recovery, though we have made progress.  Elections were postponed, but they are coming in another month or so.  Garbage is starting to be picked up.  Branches and other trash may have their day soon, but not yet.  Editorials and op-ed writers have opined regularly about the problem of underpayment of sanitation workers and even the fact that the city is underpaying the garbage contractors.  There are labor shortages everywhere due to the pandemic, Ida, and the usual way, the race to the bottom in paying essential workers in New Orleans.

ACORN, working with our affiliate in Louisiana, A Community Voice, which has neighborhood organizations in several wards in New Orleans, and Local 100 United Labor Unions, which has collective bargaining agreements for city-contracted cleaners in their courts and municipal offices, as well as the school system, and represents “hoppers” – the back of the truck laborers – on one of the two primary garbage contractors, wanted to know answers to the question:  “Is it just us or how do New Orleans voters feel about these issues?”  We took the unusual step for us of securing a poll to over 800 voters and asking six simple questions to take the pulse of the city.

The most enthusiastic response was to a question about whether citizens would support an increase in the hourly wage to $15 for both city workers and city-contracted workers.  Importantly, the question also asked whether the Mayor and the City Council should actually enforce such an ordinance if approved.  Almost 70% said YES!  There was especially strong approval among Black people (78.6%) and Democrats (76.1%) in neighborhoods like Mid-City, Bywater, and New Orleans East, but there was solid support from every neighborhood, racial, gender, and party grouping.

We found that a lot of people, 64.1%, evacuated even without a mandatory order, indicating the lessons of Katrina go deep.  People were not happy with Entergy’s performance and the weeks-long power outage with 47.4% expressing displeasure and only 36.7% satisfied, largely among Republican, males, and Lakeview residents.  People didn’t feel safer over recent years, but almost a majority still supported Mayor LaToya Cantrell, as she faces re-election.

When it comes to sanitation, we tried to be fair and asked the question about service before Hurricane Ida, since we know what people felt about garbage pickup after the storm.  It was a mixed bag, depending largely on where you lived, and, therefore, which contractor, Metro or Richards, was your company.  44.1% voiced satisfaction and 43.3% voiced dissatisfaction, so the city was divided roughly in half on the job done before the storm.  Whites were happier at 57% and Black people were the unhappiest at 36.8%, wherein in the iconic Lower 9th Ward, 75% were hopping mad.

We learned plenty.  Now we have to see what the Mayor and Council are going to do about it, both before the election, and once the winners take office.  The people are speaking loudly.  We’ll see who is really listening.

For a copy of the poll results and our report, contact communications@acorninternational.org