The arrival of Latino immigrant workers and the weakening of federal labor regulations after Hurricane Katrina raised concerns about labor conditions and workers’ rights. We carried out a survey of workers at 212 randomly selected addresses in the city of New Orleans, successfully interviewing 212 out of 351 workers approached (40% refusal rate). Workers were asked about their demographic, employment, and health characteristics, as well as violations of human rights they may have experienced. The survey was supplemented with in-depth qualitative interviews with Latino workers and key informants in Louisiana and Mississippi. Our study showed that Latino workers, particularly undocumented workers, experienced lower wages, more nonpayment of wages and/or overtime wages, and fewer worker protections than non-Latino workers. The poorer treatment of Latino and undocumented workers is thought to reflect employers’ perception of them as a disposable labor force. Indeed, few of the workers who arrived after Katrina, and especially low percentages of Latinos and undocumented workers, intended to settle in New Orleans.
December 14, 2009