Hurricane Harvey left 77 dead, caused $200bn in damage and left thousands homeless, and the rebuilding will be the largest effort since New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. And the clear-up is proving equally dangerous. (After a report in The Guardian.)
A new report produced by the University of Illinois Chicago in conjunction with workers’ rights groups paints a startling picture of the inequity experienced by many of the immigrants doing the hard, often dangerous work of rebuilding. Many have experienced wage theft, the majority have had no safety training and workers are rebuilding without access to basic safety equipment.
Already, battle lines are being drawn between a vision of equitable reconstruction being driven by worker’s rights groups and their allies in the Houston government and a free market vision championed by the Trump administration and their Republican allies in the Texas state government.
More than a decade after Katrina, immigrant and workers groups say that they have learned the lessons of storm recovery and are applying them to a massive political movement being launched under the banner of Houston Rising Coalition.
“Black workers were primarily excluded from rebuilding efforts and had to fight their way in while immigrants workers, while included, suffered extraordinary exploitation” said Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworkers Alliance, who headed the New Orleans Workers’ Center after Katrina.