Public housing tenants and the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice charged last week that the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and its contractors aren't hiring locally for the B.W. Cooper housing development construction — despite HANO director David Gilmore saying 40 percent of its crew would come from the community. The contractors already must comply with HUD "Section 3" rules that require 30 percent of the workforce be low-income residents.
Community residents, union organizers and other supporters gathered outside the B.W. Cooper development March 31 to demand that Gilmore and the city provide more jobs for locals. Some residents say they've been on a Section 3 waiting list for two years and that the site's contractor, KPK Enterprises, has another waiting list. Residents call the hiring process "a shell game," moving one set of promises and paperwork to another department and losing jobs in the process.
"The residents of B.W. Cooper have been continually strung along for the last couple of years with promises of jobs, and we've seen that this is a pattern especially since Katrina — a real effort to lock out poor black people from accessing jobs," says the justice center's campaign and resource director Colette Tippy. "We're standing with B.W. Cooper in their long-term fight to really push forward an agenda of investing in a community that just needs jobs to have a better community, to be role models."
Resident Derrick Butler says he's waited nearly three years to hear from Section 3, but contractors told him all jobs are currently filled for the B.W. Cooper development — and to call back next month.
The development's plans call for 410 units, but if Congress fails to renew GO Zone funding by the end of September, the number of units could be slashed by 40 percent — which could cut the labor force and further shut out the B.W. Cooper community from employment.
"People are being told if they don't have a job they can't get into this community once it's rebuilt," Tippy says. "There's a combination of things going on to disperse this really long-term community." — Woodward