LABOR PAEANS October 2005
(published by FORsooth, newspaper of KY chapter of F.O.R. [Fellowship of Reconciliation])
"The Titanic (It Was Sad WhenThat Great Ship Went Down)" was a song popular around the time of World War I:
Soon after Hurricane Katrina struck, two newspaper photos appeared. The first was from AFP, the French news agency, and the caption read: Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana. The two residents were white people.
The second photo was from AP, and the caption read: A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans... The man was African American. So, now we know: white people find food and black people loot.
One television reporter observed: New Orleans carefree days are over. He meant no harm, was just doing his job, filling the airspace between commercials with Novocain. But New Orleans population is mostly poor and Black. Believe it or not, poverty does not allow for a long succession of carefree days.
A dear New Orleans friend, who was a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960 s, is safe in another Louisiana town. But I did not know whether he was living or dead for many days.
Columbia and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, maybe seventy miles inland, were without power from the Monday the hurricane hit until the next Friday. A friend in Columbia, in her seventies, was living off canned goods all the food in her deep freeze had spoiled. Will these lesser priority cities get aid from Mr. Bush?
Most of the New Orleans National Guard were in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina hit. If they, plus Guardspeople from other states, were at home, and then mobilized to go to Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida.--how much less time would it have taken to rescue people, shore up the levees, and more? Cindy Sheehan, we need you now more than ever.
Back in June 2004, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents FEMA staffers, sent Congress a letter warning that FEMA s ability to respond to disasters was being degraded by contractors and other outsiders with little or no valid experience being placed in top management positions.
Oh, and how many articles have I seen see opining on whether New Orleans, located below sea level, should be rebuilt. When an earthquake hit earthquake-prone San Francisco, a few years back, there was no question that it would be rebuilt. Is race a factor in what gets rebuilt?
Reports the KY Labor News (Sept. 18): Some of the first large-scale Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery contracts awarded by the Bush administration were awarded on a no-bid basis to corporations with strong ties to the administration and the Republican Party&
The no-bid deals include $100 million contracts to the Fluor Corp., a major donor to the GOP, and the Shaw Group, which is a client of Joe M. Allbaugh, President George W. Bush s campaign manager in 2000 and the former director the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Meanwhile, Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root Services received a $29.8 million clean-up contract, while Halliburton (itself), formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, is doing repair work at three Navy facilities in Mississippi under an existing contract. The company also has been awarded billions of dollars of federal contracts for work in Iraq and that work and the Bush administration s Iraq procurement policies have been heavily criticized in recent years.
And how did Mr. Bush treat the working class? He suspended the Davis- Bacon high quality construction work standards, gutted even the pitiful prevailing construction worker's wage in New Orleans (around $10 an hour). Also suspended are affirmative action provisions.
Brian Ross of ABC News reported, on September 20:
"Pennies on the dollar. And they'll be unable to rebuild their homes and lives just as victims from numerous storms across the country have been subjected to for the last (few) years," says Steve Kanstoroom, founder of FEMAINFO.us, a website advocating for flood victims, including those whose homes were damaged when Hurricane Isabel triggered a flood surge in the Chesapeake Bay. Would it surprise you to learn that FEMA runs the National Flood Insurance Program?
How will the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital, now in power, pay for all the re-building, and will they be more trustworthy and compassionate than the National Flood Insurance scoundrels? Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) was quoted on PBS Newshour September 20: &we ought to take a really hard look at delaying implementation of the new prescription drug entitlement. That alone would put $40 billion back on the books that we could apply to Katrina next year.
You'll also be happy to know that the Federal Trade Commission, packed with Mr. Bush s cronies, is checking to see if oil companies have constrained refinery capacity to manipulate fuel prices and gouge us with high prices. Would they really do that?
But that aint all. Reports Christopher Heredia (San Francisco Chronicle September 18, 2005):
The workers among them janitorial staff and nursing assistants from the storm-ravaged gulf are employed by a temporary employment agency, CPMC Medical Director Allan Pont said.
Union members walking a picket line outside the hospital were aghast to find out the hospital was using evacuees from Hurricane Katrina to fill their jobs
"It's such an extraordinary irony," said Sal Rosselli, president of SEIU United Health Care Workers West. "SEIU is sending nurses and psych techs to New Orleans to care for people there. We're engaging the government to establish training programs there for workers who are unemployed."
Pont said there are no immediate plans to hire the Katrina evacuees permanently.
Are there alternatives to the corporate hustlers and pimps who, even in tragic circumstances, put profits before people? Community Labor United, a seven year old New Orleans group, and many other organizations, recently formed The People s Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition. Check out their website: www.communitylaborunited.net.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt had the federal government hire millions of unemployed people in the 1930 s to build roads, dams and other public works projects. He was no less a big business booster than Mr. Bush. Will Mr. Bush learn from FDR, and hire the Gulf Coast displaced workers to rebuild their cities and towns?
As we reflect upon Katrina, nature-made but corporate-made-worse let's also reflect upon what we can do now. Brutus, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar put it this way:
Copyright © 2005, Ira Grupper
Copyright © 2005
Last Modified: October 12, 2005.