Time for airport bidders to step up
4th August 2014 · 0 Comments
New Orleans is about to invest $546 million building a new terminal at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. That’s a major opportunity for the contractors that the city chooses for the project. But more importantly, it’s a major opportunity for New Orleans’ workers, with the project set to provide 13,000 construction jobs over the next four years.
But with that opportunity comes a risk. Will the winning contractors step up and commit to the community, but or will they deepen the inequities that have left tens of thousands of New Orleanians behind since Hurricane Katrina?
Black men in New Orleans face massive barriers to employment: 52 percent of them are currently jobless—35,400 men. When they can find work, the jobs are often unstable, temporary, dangerous, and poorly paid.
The black jobs crisis in our city is robbing tens of thousands of New Orleanians of a future. It’s fueling crime and chronic incarceration where there should be opportunities to build careers and communities.
The airport expansion gives us a chance to take a major step toward ending this crisis. It can encourage equitable economic development for workers across New Orleans, invest in young people’s futures, and reduce rates of violent crime—but only if the winning contractors commit to equitable job access, quality jobs with career ladders, and transparency.
The question, of course, is how to make sure that that happens. Too often in the past, contractors have talked a good game at the proposal stage about wanting to benefit the community. But when the rubber hits the road, the same workers are left out in the cold.
That’s why the two of us helped form a broad coalition of leaders from the religious, civil rights, education, and labor communities into a Community Evaluation Commission for the airport expansion. We’re asking the contractors vying for the project to submit proposals on how they’ll make sure the project will serve the community.
The commission will evaluate the contractors vying for the airport project on four principles:
• Fair Employment: How they will guarantee living wages, dispute resolution, and fair scheduling.
• Full Employment: How they will ensure a transparent hiring process, community hiring, and career ladders that provide ways for workers to build skills and quality careers.
- Health, Safety and Security: How they will ensure health insurance, paid sick days, payment for days that a state of emergency is declared, a clear mechanism for workers to report health and safety concerns, and a clear policy to prevent retaliation by workers who raise concerns.
• Transparency, Monitoring and Compliance: How they will ensure these provisions are binding and enforceable across all contractors and subcontractors, in coordination with a community Monitoring Committee.
We’re offering a transparent and effective process to make sure that the community’s voice is heard and its needs are addressed this time around—correcting the mistakes that have been made too many times in the past during major public construction projects.
The city has committed to completing the airport expansion by March 2018. Already, controversy about a bidder’s commitment to fairness and equity has delayed the bidding process and required a second round. The city can’t afford more delays, and neither can its workers. If the second round fails to produce a winner with a credible plan to meet community needs, the March 2018 deadline may be in doubt.
Now’s the time for the bidders to step up and prove their commitment to New Orleans. This moment gives us the opportunity to reverse decades of discrimination and stigma that have locked Black men in New Orleans out of jobs, and locked them into a cycle of incarceration and joblessness.
– Roy Brumfield
– Oliver Thomas
This article originally published in the August 4, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.