Sunday, December 11, 2005

Some New Orleans residents refusing to work

Nation: This is a damning indictment according to MSNBC. The other surprise is the view that the hispanic workers for the most part won't stay which is opposite of prevailing wisdom.

".....Many of these Hispanic workers are in the country illegally, which means they fly under the radar of social services and employment centers. But they have become a critical part of the workforce, filling in a gap that most locals are unable or unwilling to deal with. “The need far outweighs the help that’s available,” says Tee McCovey, a Mississippi Department of Employment Services supervisor. “And it will be like that for years.” “Help is help,” he adds. “If I’m drowning and the hand is black, white or brown I just want to be helped out.” Some locals don't want work McCovey, who supervises job centers along the Gulf Coast, calls it “workforce malnutrition” and says many locals don’t want to work either because they’re too busy dealing with their homes or they’ve decided to live off the cash and other benefits coming from governments and charities, at least for now. Some 150,000 unemployment claims have been filed since Katrina and many unemployed, he says, have this attitude: “Why do I want to go do that when I’ve been given a whole year’s worth of wages?” That’s especially true of those who didn’t have high incomes to begin with. Another issue is that many locals haven’t returned, making it harder for businesses re-opening to find workers. Food service jobs used to start at $5.50 an hour, 35 cents more than the state minimum wage, but that’s up to $8, McCovey says. “It’s an employees' market.” When locals do return to the workforce, the expectation is that many will be working in different areas. Casinos were major employers along the coast and some have shut down for months. Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, for example, laid off nearly all its 1,100 employees. “Our primary employment was services,” says Tish Williams, head of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce. “And now it’s going to be construction.” Retraining efforts include a $5 million federal program to have community colleges teach construction trades. And Mississippi has its own incentives, such as paying an employer 50 percent of its cost to train an employee over six months. Until and unless more locals return to the workforce, outside workers appear to have a place here."

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