Thursday, December 29, 2005

More Stuff About New Orleans

The labor shortage: restaurants and shops and everything from theaters to offices can't hire sufficient employees. Signs are up all over town, wheedling for workers.

Outside the Krispy Kreme: "High Wages, Great Benefits, Flexible Hours, Free Donuts!" Outside the Steak N Ale: "We'll Start you at $15.00 an hour!" The Burger King promises a $6500.00 a year commitment bonus; McDonalds promises a bonus of $250.00 a week. Some other place (I forget which) offered a five hundred dollar signing bonus.

Even so, few restraurants and few stores or shops can run a regular schedule -- no restaurant is open more than five or six days a week, or later than nine o'clock at night; most fast food restaurants are only working their drive-through windows. You can't rely on any place to be open on a given day -- if they have the workers that day, they're open that day. If not, not.

And in stores, shelves often don't get stocked. Bare spots are common-- not because goods don't exist, but because workers don't exist to stock the shelves. And lines are often appallingly long -- like winding through the store long. Stores have marked out trails on the floors with tape, so that customers know where to stand when the line gets really long, that's how customary this is. It's like post-war England, these lines.

"I should tell my students about these jobs," I told mr. delagar, since all my students are working for six bucks an hour at the Wal, here in the Fort.

"Right," he said, "Except where would they live? Under a bridge?"

Which is a good point, because housing is a problem in the city. Many stores and restaurants and businesses have put trailers in their parking lots and are letting their employees live in those; and lots of people live with their relatives, as my youngest brother and sister-in-law are doing -- four months after Katrina, they're still refugees, moving from house to house, waiting for a FEMA trailer, staying right now with my oldest brother in Destrehan: we heard about lots of people like this, living with a brother, living with an aunt, whole extended families living in the apartment of an uncle -- but if you aren't that lucky, if no one in your family had a house that survived, then what do you do?

Whole vast areas of the city did not survive and are not going to be able to be rebuilt. They'll have to be razed. The 9th Ward. Much of Gentilly. Most of Lakeview and Araby. That's housing for hundreds of thousands of people. Where are they to live, if they return, while they work, while their houses are rebuilt?

FEMA has trailers for some of them-- but down in the city, apparently, lots of folks don't want those trailers around their neighborhoods. Trailers in their neighborhoods, they say, willl drop their property values.

Like a dead city wouldn't, I guess.

Other folks claim its who would live in those trailers (ahem, dark folks, from that wicked 9th Ward) that really are worrying those who object.

In any case, finding anywhere to live in New Orleans at the moment is next to impossible. But finding a job ought to be a snap. In case anyone is interested.

1 comment:

Diane said...

In all fairness to the NIMBY people, there are a lot of people from high-crime, high-drug areas who are going to be living in trailers, and when a similar thing was done in Florida, many of those people went on an enormous crime and drug spree in their new neighborhood because there was no one there to enforce the law. I think the city should have put a strict law enforcement plan in place first, before saying "oh, people from high-crime areas are going to be living next to you."

While it is easy to dismiss people who are worried about their property values (though, they too, have rights), it is not so easy to dismiss people who are frightened of having drug dealing occur on their streets.

The staff shortages exist even on the Northshore. Not long ago, I was sitting in one of my local coffee shops and the manager told me I would have to leave in a few minutes--he was closing because he had no staff.