Tag Archives: New Orleans

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

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!

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Black Policy

Garbage workers at work

Hoppers at work

New Orleans I was eating lunch late last week on Poydras Avenue catching up with old friends and comrades from decades of political wars in the City of New Orleans.  These are the kinds of conversations where lineage and legacy are important.  When someone says Landrieu, do they mean former Mayor Moon, Senator Mary, or current Mayor Mitch Landrieu?  When Morial is mentioned, are we referring to something we remember about Dutch or something more recent with Marc?  In New Orleans like most big cities politics is both blood sport and thriving business no matter whose shingle might be out at City Hall, so past, present, and future are ever present with more angles to consider than the best carom on the green felt of any billiard table.

The new mayor, Mitch Landrieu, had gotten in a big time spat here in the early going around garbage contracts, so we spent some time discussing that.  Local 100 ULU continues to represent some of the workers employed by the contractors so has a clear stake in the conversation and one of my lunch partners had been called several days before and asked for advice by Mitch on how to handle the mess he stepped in so solidly.

Both of the current contractors are minority businesses and were awarded lucrative contracts by the recently cashiered mayor, Ray Nagin.  The local paper and the new administration on a cost cutting binge with a bad budget in a sorry economy was looking for savings, so slimming down the garbage contract seemed like an easy mark.  Mitch though made a quick and painful mistake by thinking it was a standard negotiation and when his people didn’t get immediate concessions to their liking, he announced that the City was going to unilaterally put the contracts back out to bid again.  Fur started flying with protests at City Hall, comments from the two companies’ lawyers that they still were making proposals, and a everyone from the NACCP to minority business associations jumping in to pull the Mayor’s coattails.

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