INSTITUTE INDEX: Protecting the migrant workers who rebuild after climate disaster

In February, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty J. Walsh, Deputy Secretary Julie Su, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a partnership with Resilience Force, an organization that advocates for disaster recovery workers. It has been working in Southwest Florida since Hurricane Ian. (U.S. Department of Labor photo by Shawn T. Moore via Flickr.)

Number of Venezuelan migrants in New York City — many of them bused there from Texas by state officials protesting President Biden's immigration policies — who have hopped onto vans headed to Florida to pursue vague promises of private-sector jobs in the Hurricane Ian recovery, even though community organizers have warned of human trafficking and recruitment fraud: scores

Number of Venezuelan migrants that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered flown last month from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, an island off Massachusetts, in a political ploy that's now being investigated by federal authorities: about 50

Rank of migrants among the main sources of labor for rebuilding U.S. cities after disasters, according to Ariel Ruiz Soto of the Migration Policy Institute: 1

Dollar value of the booming U.S. post-disaster recovery industry today, in which a growing number of workers — many of them undocumented — are chasing catastrophes from place to place: multibillion

Number of credible claims of harm to workers — including fatal working conditions, stolen wages, assaults, and labor trafficking — tallied by an in-depth 2021 analysis by The New Yorker of more than 20 U.S. disaster recovery efforts: more than 2,000

Year in which labor brokers recruited Venezuelan migrants from Miami to work in Michigan after historic flooding, with the workers never getting paid what they were owed while also being put at unnecessary risk for COVID-19: 2020

In a survey of 361 construction day laborers conducted in the weeks after Hurricane Harvey severely flooded Houston in 2017, percent who were unauthorized immigrants — a status that makes them especially vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers: 72

Percent of those surveyed who experienced wage theft in the four weeks after Harvey: 26

Combined amount owned to the workers: over $20,000

Year in which Saket Soni, who organized migrant laborers in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, cofounded Resilience Force, which advocates on behalf of disaster recovery workers and is currently on the ground in Southwest Florida: 2017

Rank of wage theft — which Soni calls "an index of forced labor" — among the most pervasive problems faced by disaster recovery workers: 1

Year in which Resilience Force released a report called "A People's Framework for Disaster Response" that criticized Florida's DeSantis for "slashing benefits such as unemployment insurance and creating barriers to disaster food assistance, making it more difficult—not less—for people to recover," and that called for the creation of a national Resilience Corps modeled on the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration to help communities recover from disasters: 2020

In a pilot project conducted in New Orleans during the COVID-19 pandemic, number of unemployed workers Resilience Force recruited for its local Resilience Corps to support the community's pandemic response while paying them substantially more than the local minimum wage: 60

Minimum number of other localities Resilience Force is in talks with about starting similar initiatives, including Houston and Miami: 3

(Click on figure to go to source.)