Tag Archives: New Orleans

Members of the NOPD search the Lakeview neighborhood for a group of suspected car burglars in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. STAFF PHOTO BY MAX BECHERER

Obvious Disparate Neighborhood Policing Strategies

New Orleans       The headline may have said that Iran sent twenty missiles at two Iraqi bases where US troops and materials were stationed, but the picture in my local paper was equally disturbing.  It showed New Orleans police officers armed to the gills with machine guns, armored vests, and helmets were seen with police dogs swarming around a pink house under a bold headline claiming, “LAKEVIEW LOCKDOWN.”

Please understand that the Lakeview neighborhood is not your typical New Orleans neighborhood in a city that is two-thirds African-American.  It is not the gated and stately uptown of old money, but the largely white, solidly upper-middle class of families and professionals, safely ensconced near Lake Ponchartrain.  Flooded after the levee on the 17th street canal failed during Hurricane Katrina, Lakeview had been the neighborhood that led the recovery because its families had the financial resources, while other areas lagged behind while forced to wait for federal funds and insurance payments, often deliberately slow.

What in the world was happening?  Was Lakeview under assault? Had the Iranians come after Lakeview?  Were serial killers loose on the streets?

No, there was an attempted car break-in.  Really, a car break-in?

No, not really it turns out there were some teens testing car doors to see if they were unlocked close to 9 am in the morning.  A New Orleans plainclothes detective saw a suspicious car they were riding and “opened fire,” claiming the car had backed up towards him.  Got this?  A cop without a uniform opened fire on a suspicious car over some aspiring car burglars. The teens ran for it, and “a radio call saying an officer was in danger sent dozens of police cars speeding into Lakeview, lights flashing, to block off streets and begin a search that went on for hours.”  Despite the breathless coverage of the incident, the reporter couldn’t help allowing the sense of overkill to seep into his reporting that “The massive response to a car burglary, a crime that happens more than a dozen times a day across the city, closed several neighborhood blocks, put four schools on lockdown, left residents confined to their homes and eventually resulted in the arrest of a second suspect…”  Buried in the article was the fact that no weapons were ever found on the suspects nor was there any report of them having fired weapons.

In the Ninth Ward, equally iconic after Hurricane Katrina because of the storm damage and the recovery which is still a long way from being complete, every day the Nextdoor app neighborhood watchers and commenters are reporting car lock jiggles, break-ins, and, let’s be frank, actual car thefts.  Police wouldn’t get out of their cars or bother to stifle a yawn if they got a call reporting teens on the street, much less scramble the troops, and fire away in any of these neighborhoods.  Of course, a big reason is that many would not bother to call, since we also know that the habit of the New Orleans police firing first and investigating later would more likely lead to a body count in the majority black areas of the city.

Rarely are the racially disparate police strategies for neighborhood policing so starkly obvious.  I wish we could believe that there are lessons we are learning from this.

***

Please enjoy Think of Me by Neil Young.

Thanks to KABF.

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holding trucks

Hoppers Take a Stand on Unfair Labor Practices

New Orleans        Local 100, United Labor Unions, has represented hoppers for more than twenty-five years.  The hopper is a mechanical term of art on a garbage truck.  It’s the round cylinder at back of the truck where the garbage is collected and crushed before heading to the landfill.  In New Orleans, the laborers who work on the back of the truck and either toss the garbage into the back of the truck or use the mechanical arm to dump the load into the hopper are the themselves called “hoppers.”  They work the hopper, and they are constantly running and hopping on the truck for the load at the next house.  In Dallas, where we have also represented these workers at different times, they are called “gunslingers.”  Who knows what they might be called elsewhere? Regardless, the universal situation is that someone somewhere is handling the business side of garbage, and these are the laborers that do it.  Oh, and add to that the fact that here, like so many other places, these workers are temporary, not regular, permanent workers.

We won an election to represent these workers decades ago in New Orleans and a number of other cities.  We used the fact that they were temporary workers to win their first contract.  We bargained until we were close, so that we could force the company’s hands in the summer.   In July, New Orleans is as hot and humid as the swampland surrounding the city.  As temps, our hoppers could show up for work or not.  For several days when the negotiations were near impasse, they just didn’t feel like going to work.  With garbage festering on the street, and Waste Management on the hook for delivery, we settled the contract late that Friday night.

From then until 2005 when Katrina hit, Local 100 arguably may have had the best paid garbage laborers in the country.  After the hurricane, the recovery process transferred garbage and trash to FEMA and its contractors, so our employers and the workers were replaced.  When the city finally got back on its feet and let the contracts, we then had to reorganize the hoppers.  One crooked outfit has been at the NLRB with us for years and owes our workers more than $200,000 in back pay.  With Richards Disposal, his son runs the subcontractor for hoppers called Creative Vision, and that has been a slow dance.  Finally, we agreed to a contract with the lawyers, and the owner failed to execute, forcing us to file charges with the NLRB for this company, like we had for so many others.  Time has drug on with the NLRB slow walking the charges, and the company double talking the execution.

Leadership Meeting

The union’s message to the workers has been clear.  Take action or eat crow with no contract.  Finally, the workers had enough and picked what turned out to be a cold, rainy morning to refuse to get on the trucks when they showed up at the pickup spot between 5 AM and 6 AM.  Seven trucks drove off at 7 AM without hoppers.  The manager showed up at the corner store where twenty or more hoppers were still standing.  The company was calling everywhere for hoppers.  At 8:30 AM, we met with more than 20 in our union hall.  They were solid, and they were winning.

The company’s lawyer has now called to offer a deal.  Maybe this will finally be settled, and the hoppers can celebrate getting their money?  Maybe, not.  The one thing that is clear is what we always knew.  Without worker action, there is no union.  With collective action, there is a union, and the workers win.  Period.

Hoppers Leaders Caucus at ULP action

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