At the City Council meeting on August 24, the Council unanimously passed a motion directing the New Orleans Office of Workforce Development to distribute payments due to young people who worked summer jobs and were employed by the City. While New Orleans’ Job1 program employed hundreds of youth for its summer programming, after the meeting, 55 teens were still waiting on payment. The teens began work on June 5 for a period of six weeks of work. The City had allocated about $2 million for the program (by contrast, the NOPD received $25.5 million in 2023 for recruitment alone), but administrative error delayed the payment for months. Mayor LaToya Cantrell reportedly commented, “The experience they gain outweighs the money they will receive,” which will no doubt ring true for anyone who has been paid in “experience.” According to The Guardian, wage theft costs U.S. workers over $50 billion annually, more than the value of robberies, burglaries, and other types of property theft combined, often impacting the most vulnerable members of the workforce. However, wage theft is rarely prosecuted, and is usually not treated as a criminal offense. According to WDSU, the payments finally arrived on September 7, and the teens may be eligible for additional monies due to the delay in payment (“penalty wages”). The comments below were submitted in-person before the Council.

I’m definitely advocating for getting these children paid. Wage theft is a crime regardless of who commits it. It’s imperative that we set the standard for any employment, much less for children, that we’re ensuring that they are receiving the fruits of their labor and I appreciate this measure.1Bob M.

Apparently we dropped the ball again, for kids to have a summer job and for them to have their first work experience be a tremendous disappointment for them, that says a lot about our community as a whole. Kids will not look forward to having a job for the summer if this is what we teach them, from a government standard. We just need to figure out what’s the solution. The next step is to figure out whoever didn’t file the paperwork, why this ain’t done, why these kids are not paid at this point. So it’s gonna look like back and forth trying to figure out who’s getting paid to not do the job, because the kids did their job.2Michael W.

Since Katrina, everything has been colonized, privatized, given to these nonprofits. We get government-funded money, it’s not the politicians’ money. It’s for the youth. And for me to hear this about the children, I couldn’t believe this. Y’all have the money. Our politicians cannot do they jobs. New Orleans is a very wealthy island. We don’t need no corporations from outta town to try to control us. It’s a must for the children to be taken care of first. The children are saying “nobody care about us, nobody listening to us.” And it’s sad.3Angela E.

If the kids are not getting paid, nobody in the City should be getting paid! These kids are vulnerable! Some of these kids are not going to school until they get uniforms. Let’s make it right for these kids.4Belden B.

The test for a family is to see how you’re taking care of the kids. If you’re not taking care of the elders, and the kids are being overlooked, you’re neglecting the family.5Gary D.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that “poverty is the parent of crime and revolution.” If the leadership of our city does not provide respectable and moral pathways to coming out of poverty, criminal enterprises and anger and a lack of trust in the people who are supposed to take care of them will send them elsewhere. And where they’re going won’t be good. We have some young people over in the juvenile detention center who were brilliant enough to win a national contest. The person that was giving the award had to announce that the winners could not be there because they were in jail. That shows you that not all children are unsalvageable because they commit crimes, they’re committing these crimes because they cannot trust us to help them and to guide them. What kind of example is this? When you’re trying to go to school and you’ve worked all summer, and you can’t even buy a pair of shoes because you have not been paid, you cannot expect them to put up with administrative SNAFUs. I am imploring the council to get the priorities right. Prioritize and take care of our children, because to do so is to take care of the future of our city.6Mal F.

I’m a people watcher. And as all of these individuals were talking, Mr. King [Freddie King III, District C councilmember], I don’t know if you were on your phone or not paying attention. I initially came here for my daughter. My daughter did not get paid. I am a parent of a 10th grader at Benjamin Franklin High School who worked damn hard to get there. A Black girl. 4.1 GPA, I don’t even know how that’s possible! My child has been asking me, “Why am I working if I’m not getting paid? This seems like indentured servitude.” My baby is very smart. My daughter asks me every day where her money is. She worked seven hours a day. What if you didn’t receive your check? How bout you give them your checks?7Amber M.

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