What Happens When a Growing Black Business is in the Crosshairs of a National Union
By Jeff Thomas
Brothers Jimmie and Glenn Woods started Metro Disposal (a/k/a Metro Service Group, Inc.) with vision, grit and determination. “It was just us. We had an old truck and we handmade our containers ourselves,” said Jimmie as he closed his eyes, leaned back in his chair and held his head back. “Around 8 at night I would drive and Glenn would be the hopper, and we would pick up the trash that had accumulated that day.”
“And the next morning we would put on a shirt and tie and knock on doors to get more customers,” added Glenn. “But I was the wheel man for the containers. If one of them broke, I would jack it up and fix it right there on the spot.”
“One day our truck broke down and I was under it laying in a rancid pool of maggots and feces infested water,” said Jimmie as the brothers teased about who worked the hardest. “You were good at anticipating the tool I would need next though.”
Metro has grown significantly over the last 38 years into a multi-state operation that is much more than two men and a truck. In New Orleans, Metro is one of the two African-American owned companies responsible for collecting the trash across our city. The two brothers parlayed their quick wardrobe changes and penchant to work long hard hours into being one of the largest companies in New Orleans. They now operate in 9 states and provide residential, commercial, industrial, construction and consulting services.
As the brothers joyfully reminisced inside their office, their happy mood switched to angst about the small crowd of protestors just outside the fence of their sprawling New Orleans East complex.
Across the country during this COVID-19 pandemic, union organizing has gained steam and momentum. Businesses are being identified by their size, scope and industry and organizers are contacting their employees and helping them gain better pay and protection during these life-threating work conditions. Our front-line workers deserve a living wage and proper protection.
Businesses are facing intense pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic and must adjust on the fly. Multiple unforeseen forces are simultaneously attempting to leverage business owners, while they struggle to even make a profit as their markets shrink or disappear. Additionally, workers who are fortunate enough to earn a living see their value as significantly higher and press for higher paychecks.
Smart business owners are balancing workers’ needs and rights within their own strained balance sheets and providing the resources we all desperately need during this pandemic. The best companies are transforming their business models—think Twitter allowing workers to permanently work from home. Workers will continue to organize. And this national resurgence in union organizing gives workers more ability to pressure companies.
Sitting inside their offices, the Woods brothers see this local attack through a different lens. The brothers not only currently pay, but have always paid a living wage, and they have been out in front of all the trendy hiring concepts that promulgate the latest social consciousness.
“We are the original second chance givers. We have always hired and paid a good salary to men who nobody else would even look at! Men who work with us can afford a good life in New Orleans.” “Our core beliefs are paying our people a living wage,” said Jimmie. “We always have,” echoed Glenn.
The men who Metro have hired are considered by some as castaways. Criminal records searches are used by 93% of employers that conduct pre-hiring screening, according to Sterling Talent Solutions in 2017. 70 million Americans have a criminal record, and often can’t find work because of it. The Woods’ brothers hiring practices get pass that discrimination and help formerly incarcerated persons get back on their feet. They routinely hire people who otherwise would not have a chance at earning a living wage and are proud of their support of the First 72+ program—a program that helps formerly incarcerated individuals to integrate back into society in a meaningful way.
Now, suddenly every morning young white liberals intermingle with the protestors, helping them to make signs, speak to the media and recruit others. Union organizers use laptops and smartphones to collect data from the group of largely African American men who normally start their shifts in the wee hours of the morning. These young organizers circulate information about unions and workers’ rights to the group of hoppers who normally assemble inside the gate. Hoppers are now demanding higher wages, PPE and safe working conditions.
The Woods brothers are most discouraged by the fake news being pushed by these organizers. Having been in the business for nearly 40 years, they have seen union organizers before. In fact, several years ago Metro workers voted overwhelmingly not to unionize; but now organizers are using the COVID-19 crisis to get another opportunity. Metro insists that it has treated all of their employees and subcontracted hoppers with the respect and dignity they deserve. They maintain that they pay $16.75 per hour per hopper to PeopleReady, the direct employer of the hoppers; that they have always had and made PPE available, and that their trucks are amongst the best maintained in the industry.
PeopleReady, the direct employer of the protesting hoppers, is a part of TrueBlue, Inc., a global workforce solutions leader connecting clients with over 840,000 associates across 70 countries. They recruit, hire and directly pay the hoppers. The PeopleReady profit per hour per employee is the difference between the living wage that Metro pays for the hoppers as compared to the multi-national company whose global focus is on their own profit. PeopleReady confirms that it currently pays the hoppers at least $11.19 per hour, which is the current Living Wage under the City’s Living Wage Ordinance.
Metro has always, not only had enough PPE for their employees and sub-contractors, but have even loaned supplies to other companies that were expecting delayed deliveries. They are committed to doing everything they can to protect the citizens of the city and every person associated with Metro, whether direct employees or indirect employees. The Woods brothers live in New Orleans and shiver at the thought of them being a source of community spread. Back in February, they sourced enough PPE for each team member and plan to continue to provide them protective gear as long as there is a need. In fact, they have invoices that prove this point.
Even though PeopleReady is responsible for providing all protective gear to the hoppers, Metro has stocked enough for the hoppers. Metro has communicated in no uncertain terms to PeopleReady that it should properly protect the workers. Viewing themselves as a front-line and an essential service, Woods says, “Metro will continue to lead the way in ensuring everybody in New Orleans is safe.” In fact, Metro is researching several products that can be sprayed on cans and give them long term resistance to germs, bacteria and viruses. Though not contractually required, Metro has always been an innovative company that protects our community.
The union claimed that Metro used prisoners from Livingston Parish to collect the trash in New Orleans. Metro does not refute this, but clarifies that when the hoppers decided not to work on May 5th, and stated that no truck would move and no trash would be collected in the City on that date, it had to act quickly to protect the citizens of New Orleans from the environmental effects waste build-up, along with honoring its contractual obligations to the City. During this pandemic, more people are home and creating and putting out more trash than normal, and Metro is committed to collecting the trash.
Faced with a reduced workforce, Metro reached out to industry competitors. None could help because they are also collecting more trash than normal. In a jam, the brothers took drastic measures. Referred to Livingston Parish by someone in the business, Metro hired trustees, who are at the end of their confinement, and are eligible to work. And New Orleans remains safe and clean. They only worked for 4 days. Metro paid a living wage to every man who worked during that 4-day period. Metro’s quick decision protected the people of New Orleans and helped some men who needed and were eligible to work.
The company has invested over $3 million dollars in their fleet of trucks, and in constructing a Compressed Natural Gas plant. If you used to listen for the garbage man and run out in your PJ’s to pull out the can, you might be out of luck if Metro services your neighborhood. They use Compressed Natural Gas trucks. The trucks are super quiet, virtually eliminating noise and air pollution, but making last minute can pullers job tough.
In their sprawling NOLA East complex, Metro employs certified mechanics, who in addition to servicing the trucks replace their own tires and paint the trucks themselves. Environmentally conscious and focused on cleanliness, Metro removes the trash in late-model, well-maintained, quiet trucks. They operate the mechanic shop 24-hours a day to keep clean running compressed natural gas-powered vehicles available.
Union organizers repeatedly question hoppers about problems. One day one hose broke on one truck. Suddenly a list of demands included stopping hydraulic fluid from pouring onto hoppers. The truck was serviced the same day and back on the road with a newly repaired hose that did not leak. Jimmie and Glenn pride themselves on keeping their vehicles in tip top shape.
Municipalities like to contract local because their partners are truly invested in the community. Lifelong residents of the greater New Orleans area, Jimmie and Glenn are well known contributors to important causes that benefit us all. Churches and community groups have leaned on the businessmen over the years, so much that they had to pull back and are forming a philanthropic nonprofit that will help raise funds and be responsible for aid distribution going forward.
Metro is a family-owned business that is the American success story. Metro is an African- American owned business that is growing. Metro hires African-American men, many who would have no other work opportunity, and pays them a living wage. The company is run by native New Orleanians who live in the city. Their children attend local schools. They go to local churches and shop in local stores. They are here to protect and serve our community.
But during these strange COVID-19 times, they are being branded as a something else. A national movement to increase union membership is active and real in New Orleans. Sometimes union organizers use local people as their pawns. Instead of speaking themselves, local union organizers got three local people to be their spokesmen. Sadly, they made false claims. Most hoppers have returned to work through PeopleReady, and Metro has welcomed them back.
Let’s protect workers’ rights. Unionize when necessary. But we should not smear the good names of a local family that runs a great business and treats its people the way they would like to be treated themselves.
Strong unions are good for America. They protect our workers and safeguard working conditions and pay. Our economy is stronger when our workers have enough money to live productive lives. But national unions hurt themselves and create mistrust when they make false claims and attempt to smear the good name of a local community asset like Metro Disposal. During COVID-19, unions are growing. Workers’ rights are important. We need to do everything we can to support our people. And we need strong companies from our communities who hire our people and treat them right
Black men kill each other at alarming rates all across America every day. Nearly every city’s daily news casts reports, “Today in our city three (or thirty depending on the size of your city) men were shot and killed in three (or thirty) separate shootings. Police have no suspects in any of the cases.” And immediately and innately you know that the people killed were black and the killers were black. This has been going on for the last 30-40 years and no end is in sight. New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates nationally. Why do black men kill each other?
First Let’s Dispel a
First thing you have to know is that 99.999% of black men do
not commit murder ever in their lives.
That is a fact! This is not a
black man issue. There is nothing
genetically or intrinsically wrong with black men. But the fact remains that
daily hundreds of black men across this country are murdered everyday by
another black man. Why does this happen
with this subset?
Common factors to Black
men murdering other black men
The first thing about murder is that people usually kill
people who are similar to them in many ways, particularly race. White men normally murder other white men and
black men normally murder other black men.
In the black community, these killings are normally city events. Rarely do you hear of a drive by in the country. Most of these daily killings occur on the city streets. People kill others who they interact with.
Young men engage in risky and violent behavior. Most of the men dying on our streets are
between the ages of 17-35.
But these are often cited, unsurprising factors. More salient is what goes into the psyche of a guy who can look into the eyes of another man and pull the trigger at close range or jab a knife with the intent to murder another man? What are the other factors that contribute to becoming a murderer? Why do Black men kill each other
The guy who ain’t never scared and always looking to
escalate a situation. Down for whatever. Nothing to live for and anticipating the day
he will either kill or be killed. This
mindset is cultivated in a limited option, few chances, success deprived
life. This guy has had a number of
arguments and fist fights throughout his life.
He hates authority and frequently feels angry or resentful towards
people. He often seeks to overcome a
feeling of powerlessness. This guy is a
walking heap of rage. He is always nothing
but a gun and an argument away from murder.
The Disrespected Man
A man who feels like everybody but him gets respect.
Unemployed or stuck in a low wage hard work job
where his contributions are unrecognized
Lives with his mother and has little control over
his home environment
Has a child but no custody and a bad relationship
with his baby mama
Been profiled and harassed by the police
Observes community members driving nice cars
Rejected for better jobs
Feels unable to change his life status and is
insignificant in the world
Seeks to overcome feelings of impotence
For this guy, respect is everything and options to express
anger or refutation are often limited. He
often seeks to overcome a feeling of impotence. If another who seems unworthy
of disseminating criticism or scorn or generally crosses the line of imagined
respect, then a high level of response will be meted out.
Little life happiness
Thrill seeker often brags and talks about his toughness and ‘hood status.
Wants to make a real name for himself
Will recklessly escalate a situation or
When challenged by a non-believing skeptic, this man often
acts in unnecessarily violent ways in unnecessarily violent situations. Often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.
Too often black men suffer an inferiority
vilifies and criminalizes black men on a daily basis.
American culture is based upon the notion that
black people and specifically black men are less intelligent, completely
unpredictable, beast like, lazy etc., etc.
Black men internalize this notion and are
conditioned to see little value when they look in the mirror.
Beset by internal angst and torment.
Unresolved pain combined with poverty,
ignorance, oppression, violent police, violent neighborhoods, etc.
symptoms of an inferiority complex include a high sensitivity to criticism, perceiving
others as a threat, jealousy, a lack of dreams.
The daily feeling of isolation, powerlessness and impotence is like being a prisoner of war. One reason black men grab their genitals is to stress their vitality. Men who have been literally stripped of the ability to display their manhood – great jobs, big houses, educational attainment and all the other accoutrements of modern society- are literally killing to express their power in life. Twisted but true.
From long sleeves to Y2K shimmer.
By Amber Rambharose
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Like the tide, swimwear trends come and go. Last year, we saw everything from Barbiecore bikinis to the sheerest of suits, and you’ll likely recognize some of the hottest swimsuit trends to try in 2023 from last year’s most-loved lineup. But that doesn’t mean each and every trending bikini style this year is recycled from swimwear seasons past. Swimwear designers are delivering fresh silhouettes in brand-new textures and prints that’ll have you itching to book a beach vacation.
Good news for those who take the adage “sun’s out, buns out” literally: A major current throughout the bikini trends to try in 2023 is skin. Across the board and with one long-sleeved exception, swimsuits this year are smaller than ever. Bottoms are cheekier, triangle tops have shrunken down to minute proportions, and underboob seems to have become an inevitability. Still, if you’re staunchly opposed to the itty bitty string bikini, there are ways to update your swimwear wardrobe by incorporating prints and design details that are having a moment, no waxing appointment required. Ahead, you’ll find a dozen swimsuit trends to try for 2023, no matter your swim style.
The days of rash guards being the exclusive domain of California surfer girls and sun-rash-prone pre-teens are over. Long-sleeve swimsuits have arrived for one and all this summer, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that at least one major swim moment this summer is offering up some coverage. From brightly colored one-piece suits to dramatically sheer sleeves over bikini tops, there are plenty of ways to rock this swimwear trend while still staying true to your personal aesthetic. Shop: Gabi Fresh Swim x ELOQUII Long Sleeve Knot Front Wrap Swimsuit, $160
You don’t have to have your scuba certification to get in on the athletic bikini trend. These sporty suits often feature asymmetrical straps and color blocking, plus more fabric than you’re likely to find in almost any other major 2023 bikini trend. This year, many athletic bikinis offer full-coverage tops and bottoms while still incorporating playful cutout details, in case you can’t resist. Shop Similar:Araks Helena Bikini Top, $220 and Araks Hyma Bikini Bottom, $140
Often found in vintage-inspired silhouettes, retro print bikinis serve up seaside romance. These suits tend to come with details on the softer side of sultry — ribbon closures, silky fabrics, ruffles, and bows will accompany a retro print bikini. If you’re a fan of florals, this bikini trend is definitely one you’ll want to try. Shop Similar:Boden Pleated Strap Bikini Top, $70 and Boden Classic Bikini Bottoms, $50
High-waisted bikinis are both a little bit old school and a little bit edgy. The silhouette of these bikinis has an inclination towards the athletic, making them a great choice for anyone who plans to join in activities that extend beyond laying out poolside while wearing a two-piece suit. And by definition, they also have more coverage, especially in the tummy area. Shop Similar:Daze Dayz Swan Brief, $89 and Daze Dayz Swan Bralette $89
A texture-forward look brought on by the Y2K fashion revival, a shimmery swimsuit is a surefire way to hop on the trend without sacrificing your favorite fit. Shop Similar:Oséree Layered High Waist Lamé Two-Piece Swimsuit, $183 (Originally $305)
Another swimsuit styling blast from the past, this year’s high-cut bikinis are shamelessly putting big Baywatch energy out into the universe. Picture hiking a pair of undies way up over your hips and prancing out into the surf — that’s the fit of this style. They also tend to be very cheek-forward, which makes them great if you want few-to-no tan lines (and are stocked up on sunscreen). Shop Similar:Ostra Brasil Hight Cut Bikini Bottom, $130 and Ostra Brasil Strapless Lastex Bikini Top, $163
If you’re a fan of a neutral color palette, this is your trend. The ’23 color-block swimwear graduating class offers a more subtle visual palette than, say, a bold tropical print, without skewing simply black and white. Instead, you’ll find an array of beige, brown, and tan tones contrasted with piping, cutouts, and closures. Shop Similar:Icon Swim Jodie Bikini, $32
Want a little extra glamour with your swimwear? Enter your new favorite 2023 bikini trend: the off-the-shoulder bikini. These tops tend to give off Old Hollywood starlet vibes and feature sweetheart, bandeau, or square necklines for a vintage feel without going full retro. Shop Similar:Bfyne Niniki Top, $140 and Byfne Niniki Bottom, $91
Perhaps the most decadent and least practical of the 2023 swimwear trends to try is the sequin-spangled bikini. Should you go body-surfing in this style of swimsuit? Not yes! Will this style of bikini get you many, many compliments and standout wherever you wear it? Absolutely, it will. Shop Similar:Oséree Sequin Microkini Two-Piece Swimsuit, $159 (Originally $265)
The ideology of white supremacy pervades culture in subtle yet pernicious ways.
White supremacist ideology permeates many cultures through subtle biases built into society’s institutions.
From childhood, biases and stereotypes unconsciously shape thinking and can accumulate into racism.
Microaggressions and other forms of racist behaviors can have cumulative harmful effects.
Dismantling racist hierarchies rooted in white supremacy will require radical structural societal change.
We often dismiss white supremacists as extreme outliers, such as neo-Nazis or the KKK, but the ideology of white supremacy pervades mainstream culture in subtle yet pernicious ways. Examples include media that primarily feature white characters and reporters, work environments where ethnic hairstyles are seen as “unprofessional,” and curricula that fail to reflect the diversity of human experiences and achievements.
From early years, children unconsciously absorb subtle biases and stereotypes that permeate their thinking. The media frequently depict minorities as menacing or subordinate, exemplified by portrayals of Latino gang members or black “welfare queens.” Past research has highlighted significant racial biases in children’s animated films, where characters of color are not only underrepresented but also commonly depicted in a negative light (e.g., Towbin et al., 2004). Furthermore, within social circles, praising black individuals for “acting white” reveals entrenched inequalities and the ingrained notion of whiteness as the standard or ideal.
These “microaggressions” accumulate over time, affecting lives in both subtle and significant ways (Bettache, 2022). From a young age, black girls might be conditioned to view their natural hair as “unprofessional” or “distracting,” with the pressure to conform to white beauty standards persisting into adulthood. Children from other diverse backgrounds, including those with Arab or Muslim heritage, may also frequently face “othering” experiences, as they encounter questions about their citizenship, accents, or perceived “true” ethnicity (Haque et al., 2019; Sirin et al., 2021). A lifetime of such nuanced, yet dehumanizing experiences often profoundly shapes one’s sense of belonging and identity within society.
For black girls, discrimination based on hair texture is a common experience that reinforces their position as outsiders in some environments. Some schools have even prohibited natural hairstyles, considering them “unruly” or contrary to policies requiring a “professional” appearance (Macon, 2014). The message is that to succeed and be accepted, black women must conform to white norms rather than embrace their cultural heritage and identity. Such policies inflict psychological harm and perpetuate racist beliefs that natural black hair is somehow unkept or unclean.
Children with diverse cultural backgrounds, such as those of Middle Eastern descent, often experience relentless pressure to “assimilate” and demonstrate their loyalty. They may face ridicule for their accents, food, attire like the hijab, or names, and encounter persistent suspicion and distrust, particularly in the aftermath of events like 9/11 and the War on Terror (Sirin et al., 2021). Hearing demands to “go back to your country” is not uncommon.
For those from mixed heritage, questions like “What are you?” can make them feel that their very existence is peculiar or “other.” Even multigenerational citizens may still be confronted with doubts about their national belonging due to factors like skin tone or surname.
While microaggressions can seem minor when viewed in isolation, the cumulative effects of repeated slights, indignities, and insults can cause real harm over time. They send the message that you do not belong due to your race, religion, or ethnicity. For marginalized groups, this can result in anxiety, social exclusion, low self-esteem, depression, and even physical health issues over the lifespan. Microaggressions are not merely “subtle”—they inflict a thousand small cuts that, together, have the power to maim and oppress.
White Normativity: Unraveling Social Conditioning
Decades of research have unveiled unsettling societal patterns, demonstrating that children as young as 3 years old are highly attuned to racial cues and unconsciously perpetuate racism (Aboud, 2008; Hirschfeld, 2008; Patterson & Bigler, 2006; Van Ausdale & Feagin, 2001). This early sensitivity to race is not inherent at birth, but rather developed through social influences, emphasizing the social nature of such biases.
Preschoolers, for example, exhibit preferences for lighter skin and favor white-sounding names. These implicit biases often persist into adulthood, with one study revealing that job candidates with identical resumes but traditionally African American names received 50 percent fewer callbacks compared to applicants with white-sounding names (Bertrand et al., 2004).
In other words, the social machinery of white supremacy is operational before children can even articulate racial concepts or understand the meanings of stereotypes. Simply by observing the world around them, kids absorb the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that society values whiteness over black- or brownness. Their early associations of darker skin with more negative traits persist even when individuals reject explicit stereotyping and prejudice.
The racial preferences 3- and 4-year-olds display can extend into evaluations of identity, status, and competence, research shows. These may include describing light-skinned dolls as “nicer” or “smarter” than dark-skinned dolls, or associating more positive personality traits with arbitrarily assigned “white-sounding” names over “African American-sounding” names (Gopaul-Mc. Nicol, 1988) The attitudes formed in early childhood go on to influence perceptions and interactions throughout life in ways both profound and often invisible.
For those in the dominant racial group, the effects remain subtle yet considerable, as many develop blind spots to systemic racial inequities that nonetheless privilege them. This stems from willful ignorance of histories centered around whiteness. When faced with facts about racial injustice, some respond defensively rather than with empathy, unable to recognize that racial identity is an experience in and of itself, associated with unearned benefits and advantages not available to all (Liu et al., 2019).
The ideology of white supremacy has been systematically built into the foundation of society over centuries of racist policies and practices. Colonial myths of savagery were used to justify the subjugation and exploitation of groups classified as “non-white” (Horne, 2020). Slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples established the legal precedent that those with darker skin could be violently oppressed with impunity.
Segregation laws then codified the belief in white dominance for generations. Racial minorities faced legally enforced discrimination and disadvantage in all areas of life, including housing, education, healthcare, and civic participation (e.g., Braveman et al., 2022). The civil rights movement dismantled racist laws, yet more subtle forms of systemic discrimination persist today through mass incarceration, voter suppression, and inequality in access to opportunity and wealth accumulation.
The media has been instrumental in perpetuating harmful racial stereotypes that further marginalize various groups. Depictions of minorities as dangerous threats to public safety coexist with portrayals of “model minorities” as foreigners who achieve success through non-threatening behavior. These representations have sometimes been exploited to rationalize state-sanctioned violence against certain groups, as well as to withhold support for others confronting racial obstacles (e.g., Jewel, 1993; Yu, 2006).
In essence, the origins of white supremacy gave rise to racist institutions that were designed to concentrate power and resources in the hands of one group by denying humanity and equal rights to others. While the mechanisms of oppression have evolved over time, the impact remains the same—the privileging of whiteness through the systematic disenfranchisement and disadvantage of people of color.
Dismantling White Supremacist Cultures
To dismantle a system that has evolved over centuries, we must first acknowledge that racial inequality is neither the outcome of inherent flaws or inferiority within certain groups, nor solely the product of individual racist biases from a few “bad apples.” Instead, I argue that it is the unavoidable consequence of supremacy ingrained within the very foundation of society itself (Bettache, 2020).
We internalize insidious logics that rank human value by skin tone. Without examining the roots of our biases by recognizing the histories rendered invisible by power, injustice is unknowingly reproduced. Gaining awareness presents both peril and possibility. Confronting complicity demands relinquishing privilege and gratification tied to racial advantage.
But the first steps are, I believe, simple. They include things like calling out racist jokes and stereotypes; listening fully to experiences of racism; and supporting diverse authors, businesses, and creative work.
However, individual acts of awareness and allyship alone will not transform racist structures or lift the burden of racism from those marginalized by it daily. Dominant groups must find the courage to decenter themselves in society and actively make space for others. This means advocating and organizing for policy changes that remedy racial inequities, rather than superficial responses aimed at comfort.
Racial justice demands radical societal changes, not diversity workshops or cursory acknowledgments of privilege for those who benefit from supremacy. It requires reckoning with racist institutions and the concentration of power that allows some to rise by holding others down. At its heart, the system was not built in equity or fairness. Changing people’s hearts and minds means little without fundamentally changing the rules of the game itself.
Getting there will demand humility, sacrifice, and perseverance from those who have yet to face barriers due to skin tone. It will mean amplifying voices that challenge racist structures instead of centering comfort. It will require allowing the experiences of marginalized groups to shape policy and guide the way forward.
In conclusion, the crux of the matter lies in the choice society must make: to either sustain existing systems perpetuating inequality or to actively create new pathways that foster liberation and a sense of belonging for individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. To accomplish equitable outcomes, it is imperative to acknowledge that the notion of equal opportunity has been a mirage from the outset.
Genuine change stems from introspection, challenging the ingrained biases that have been shaped by a racially prejudiced culture. In our quest to dismantle systemic oppression, it is essential to radically transform the very framework that shapes the collective consciousness of society.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines or computer programs to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as speech recognition, computer vision, natural language processing, and decision making. AI has many benefits for society and humanity, as it can help us solve complex problems, improve productivity, enhance creativity, and provide new services and products. Some of the benefits of AI are:
– AI can help us save time and resources. AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, such as data entry, customer service, accounting, and quality control. AI can also optimize processes and systems, such as logistics, manufacturing, transportation, and energy. And AI can reduce human errors and increase efficiency and accuracy.
– AI can help us improve health and well-being. AI can assist doctors and nurses in diagnosing diseases, recommending treatments, monitoring patients, and conducting research. AI can also enable personalized medicine and preventive care, such as wearable devices, chatbots, and telemedicine. Also AI can improve access and affordability of health care for everyone.
The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence
– AI can help us foster innovation and creativity. AI can generate new ideas and insights from large amounts of data and information. AI can also collaborate with humans in co-creating novel products and solutions. AI can inspire us to explore new possibilities and domains.
– Also AI can help us enhance learning and education. AI can provide personalized and adaptive learning experiences for students of all ages and backgrounds. AI can also augment teachers and educators in creating engaging and interactive content, providing feedback, and assessing performance. And AI can facilitate lifelong learning and skill development for everyone.
– And AI can help us address global challenges and opportunities. AI can help us tackle some of the most pressing issues facing humanity, such as climate change, poverty, hunger, inequality, and security. AI can also help us seize some of the most exciting opportunities for humanity, such as space exploration, biotechnology, and social good.
AI has the potential to transform every aspect of our lives for the better. However, AI also poses risks and ethical issues that need to be carefully considered and addressed. Therefore, it is important to develop and use AI responsibly and wisely, with respect for human dignity, rights, values, and diversity.
by Dan Neuharth Ph.D., MFT
How to accept aging and embrace opportunities in later life.
Between the early 60s and mid-70s, some people may experience a developmental life transition.
This transition can bring strong feelings of regret, resentment, disillusionment, and grief.
Embracing change, adopting a growth mindset, and connecting with others can help navigate this period.
The “midlife crisis,” which can occur between our late 30s to mid-50s, is well-researched (though not universally agreed upon). There is also anecdotal evidence of a “quarter-life crisis” facing some in their mid-20s to early 30s.
Now, with the U.S. population over 65 projected to increase 50% in the next 15 years, and with over-60 becoming the fastest-growing age group worldwide, attention is being paid to whether a “three-quarter-life crisis” awaits some of us as we reach our early 60s into our mid-70s.
The concepts of these three crises — or transitions, as many researchers prefer to term them — draw from stage theories of adult development of Erikson, Levinson, and others. Stage theories posit that we move through predictable phases of cognitive, social, and physical development which can stimulate us to adjust our life structure and goals, sometimes with turmoil and upheaval.
Life transitions can arrive without warning and feel unnerving. For some, reaching the three-quarter mark of life expectancy can be associated with increased distress.
For example, one 2020 survey of more than 5,000 Australians found that a third had experienced a three-quarter-life transition. They reported feeling remorse, boredom, discouragement, and they questioned their legacies.
This transition may feel like a crisis when it includes pervasive feelings of:
Pessimism about the future
Resentment, irritability, or bitterness
Uncertainty about one’s priorities
Emptiness, grief, or loneliness
The challenges of a three-quarter-life crisis differ from those of midlife and quarter-life transitions.
In a midlife transition, key challenges may include:
Facing a dawning sense of mortality as we reach a halfway point
Questioning the dreams and choices that have guided our lives to the midpoint
Bewilderment at realizing we may have labored under illusions about life, others, and ourselves
Feeling a loss of youth
In a quarter-life transition, central issues can include:
Feeling left behind in comparison with peers
Difficulty making career, relationship, and other life decisions
Anxiety, tension, and uncertainty about one’s identity
Lack of clarity about what really matters in life
Feeling aimless or lacking motivation
Difficulty transitioning from one’s family of origin to an independent life structure
Unique factors spark a three-quarter-life transition. By our early 60s, concerns about health, safety, independence, and isolation can arise. These may feel more pressing than the questions of identity, purpose, or mortality which are characteristic of earlier life transitions.
We face retirement and an empty nest. We may need to learn to live with less. Our parents may have passed on or be in steep decline. Changes in cognition, hormones, appearance, and fitness, once subtle, seem to accelerate. As the torch passes to younger generations, older adults may feel less visible or held in less regard.
Our peers increasingly face health challenges. Prior to age 40, fewer than 4 in 10 people have a serious health condition. By age 60, three-quarters of us face at least one serious health challenge. By the mid-70s, more than four out of five will have one or more serious health conditions.
While these shifts can be challenging, life after 65 also brings opportunities.
By several measures, life satisfaction and subjective well-being increase through our 60s well into our 80s, reaching levels higher than in our 40s. We tend to become more resilient. By age 80, a higher percentage of people report feeling prepared for the inevitability of death than at any time earlier in life, according to a 2022 survey by AARP and National Geographic.
Many pass through the 60s and 70s embracing and accepting the changes of aging. In the study cited earlier of Australian seniors, two-thirds of those who reported having a three-quarter-life crisis said it ultimately turned out to be a healthy process.
Life transitions tend to have three phases:
An initial period of loss. External events or internal processes can plunge us into recognizing that what we have taken for granted may be changing or vanishing for good. This can initially spark unease, denial, and a reluctance to change.
A middle period of disorientation. Having lost our bearings, we may seek distractions, withdraw, or act impulsively. In time, however, this turmoil can provide an impetus for newfound self-exploration.
A final period of consolidation and new beginnings. We come to accept what we have lost and focus more on who we want to become.
This model can be useful to those facing a three-quarter-life crisis. If you are experiencing some of the seven signs listed above, it may help to view these signs as messages from within. It may be that a deeper, wiser part of you is trying to get your attention.
In any transition, we have the opportunity to move beyond what we have outgrown. If we do so, our lives can continue evolving. To the extent we fail to adapt, we may be constrained by a life structure that no longer fits us.
For those in their 60s and 70s, adapting may include:
Reaching out. Talk to trusted friends. Seek therapy. Search for support groups for seniors facing transitions. Now is not the time to go it alone.
Engaging with what is changing. Keep a journal. Read. Watch videos or listen to podcasts about life transitions, re-inventing yourself, coping with change, or aging positively.
Adopting a growth mindset. Ask yourself what really matters. How do you want to spend your time? What feels like a life well-lived? Focus on quality experiences, not quantity.
Embracing change and novelty.
Of course, debilitating emptiness, regret, loneliness, and apathy may signal depression, not just a life transition. Depression is best treated actively with psychotherapy, medication, and other forms of support.
To date, there is primarily anecdotal evidence of a three-quarter-life crisis. This area offers fertile ground for new research, particularly given the increasing number of people reaching this age.
In New Orleans, we need strong Black businesses. Black owned business growth is the key to New Orleans’ success. New Orleans has a crime problem. The solution is not more police. The solution is more and better jobs. In New Orleans, that means more and better black owned businesses. Black businesses create better jobs for African Americans. And that is because black businesses hire African Americans at a higher rate and pay them more money. Our community needs more black jobs. Those are jobs for us by us.
We Need Strong Black Businesses
Black jobs by definition are offered by African American businesses to African American people. Black companies hiring black people. Strong African American companies create generational wealth. People with good jobs are good tax paying citizens. Our city council must create meaningful pathways to black jobs. Creating access to contracts and the capital to fulfill them is the proper role of our city council. Some states offer free land or no taxes to attract businesses. The New Orleans City Council must offer contracts and capital. That creates Black jobs – African American companies hiring African Americans people to do work.
Black jobs are the key to our city’s future. Growing an African American business class provides long-term stability for our families. Hiring African Americans and providing good paying jobs has immediate impacts. People with good jobs are much less likely to engage in crime. If you got a good job – paying all your bills and have some left over – you don’t need to be on the corners involved in street crime. If you have a good paying job, you will not be angry all the time. You will have something to live for. And you won’t shoot the guy next door over “disrespect!” And having an African American company to offer the jobs means better jobs.
The best employers for young African American men are African American businesses. A reason white owned companies hire more white employees is because people like to work with people who are like them. Cohesive happy environments foster creativity, productivity and profitability. Yes diversity is very important. But we just do not have enough successful African American businesses. This dearth contributes to the troubled neighborhoods. We must do better in New Orleans. We must develop, support an grow more African American businesses. Creating business opportunities in our communities strengthens our communities. Good jobs help young men develop into good citizens. And growing Black businesses promote other ancillary Black businesses. Those will also hire African Americans. Black jobs are the best jobs.
For our existing African American owned businesses, we need to support and protect them. Bigger companies want their valuable contracts. But the city council must protect these contracts. We need successful African American companies to support our communities. The profits stay here and are multiplied when the companies are New Orleans based. New Orleans based African American companies help reduce crime, grow the tax base and create more business opportunities. More black jobs make New Orleans a better city.
We Need Strong Black Businesses
We must support our local businesses. Our political leaders must contribute to their success. If they need help, that is precisely the role of government. Instead of tax breaks to attract big businesses, we need tax incentives that support local businesses. Support our local African American owned businesses. They create black jobs. Black jobs are the best jobs.
Belonging: A Daughter’s Search for Identity Through Loss and Love by Michelle Miller
I never expected Michelle Miller’s new book Belongingto affect me so deeply. On the day of Michelle’s birth, her mother, a Chicana who looks white, handed Michelle to the Black married physician she was having an affair with. Raised mostly by her paternal grandmother, her very existence was a carefully guarded secret kept by her mother. Her mother clings tenaciously to that secret to this day.
Growing up without a mother, or even a story about a mother – the Black side of the family kept that secret – left this brilliant, inquisitive child with incessant questions and insecurities about her place in a family. Indeed, her light brown skin and sharp features left her insecure for many years about her place just about anywhere.
Michelle tells her story in an intimate, descriptive way. You feel like you are in the room with the rambunctious 5-year-old. Like you are eavesdropping on the conversation of the out-spoken 9-year-old. Or are reading the diary of the teenager with its embarrassing confessions, are experiencing the rush of her first crush. I breathe a sigh of relief as Michelle slides successfully into adulthood. She creates a stellar career as a journalist, marriage, and motherhood. She shares her mistakes and missteps with honesty and forgiveness. The book is the kind of loving lesson that I would want a best friend to confide in me.
There’s history in it, too. Her father was the first physician to kneel at Robert F. Kennedy’s side as he lay mortally wounded. Michelle rode a school buss to integrate wealthy white schools. During her decades as a journalist she weaves our nation’s ongoing and imperfect racial reckoning into her struggle to understand her own racial identity. She covers Rodney King’s beating, George Floyd’s death, and the Black Lives Matter movement. She attends a state dinner at the Obama White House. And she marries a handsome and charismatic New Orleans mayor.
The gift of the book for me is that it connects me – very belatedly – with my own grief of motherlessness. As a teenager I lost my mother to a mental illness that made me decide, at the time, that I didn’t really need her or miss her. But I did, of course. And now, as a grandmother, I finally realize that I still do. Michelle, in her longing for and search for her mother, gave me the courage to acknowledge my own grief and longing.
Book Review- Michelle Miller’s Belonging
By an accident of birth, I was spared Michelle’s racial identity quandaries. But what impressed me mightily in this book is how precious and fragile is this thing called family, and how vulnerable it is to accidents of birth, to social position, to health and disease, to history, to cultural norms of beauty, and to the hue of the skin. Vulnerable, yes. But not completely at the mercy of. Michelle has demonstrated how we can create and re-create our families as we grow into a knowledge of how to love and trust and move confidently in the world. With humility and an adventurous spirit, not to mention fear and trembling, all of us can figure out where and to whom we belong.
Book Review- Michelle Miller’s Belonging
Orissa Arend is author of Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans
Meet State Treasurer John Schroder. He’s very conservative. In case you forgot, you were reminded on WBOK last Friday. Wait, who’s John Schroder? A candidate for governor, no less. He’s seeking your support, your vote specifically. And he treated you to a reality check on WBOK’s The Reality Check, ironically.
About 30 minutes into the interview, attorney Suzette Bagneris asked Schroder the blackest question in the country at the moment. And he proceeded to give the whitest of answers. The question went: Mr. Schroder, as governor will you support the anti-CRT bills that are banning the teaching of black history in schools across the country?
Loaded question? Absolutely! But there were all kinds of placating answers Schroder could’ve given, like: There are aspects of CRT that I disagree with, but the fact remains that black history is American history. And as governor I can’t imagine signing a bill that excludes it from our text books.
But that is not what he said. Instead, after much hemming and hawing, Schroder said this: “This is a divisive issue…but we have much bigger issues to deal with than these divisive issues. I’m for putting those aside, alright, and let’s get back to the basic things we’re doing.” Those basic things being reading, writing, and rithmetic. After a commercial break, he then proceeded to say, “Look, CRT is just something we’ll have to agree to disagree about.”
If Fred Sanford was around, that answer would’ve garnered a “you big dummy.” George Jefferson would’ve called him something more crass.
Schroder Had A You Big Dummy Moment
Imagine it. A CRT bill is put on his desk. What would he do? Put it aside? Say “hey look this bill will have to be something we just agree to disagree about”?
If you deemed his answer a cop-out, you are not wrong. If you deemed his answer, a nonchalant way of saying yes I sure will, then you are also not wrong.
Maybe Schroder didn’t think he’d be asked that question. Or maybe he thought black people would appreciate his honesty. I imagine his campaign manager would’ve appreciated that he’d been a lil less honest. After all, what was his point of being on the show, if it wasn’t courting black voters? Clearly, that wasn’t the way to go about it. “You big dummy.”
Schroder has some decisions to make, though, mainly what direction is he going. Clearly, he’s not going to out-MAGA Jeff Landry, our Attorney General, who’s not only the front runner for governor, but who’s also got the endorsement of Captain MAGA, Trump.
Schroder Had A You Big Dummy Moment
So if Schroder went on WBOK thinking he’d make a name among black voters, he had to leave disappointed. Besides the CRT flop, he seemed to forget his own position on crime. When asked about crime, he said, “If you think the governor of the state is going to fix crime in New Orleans, then you just don’t know the law.” But he’s already on record with a crime plan — longer prison sentences, which is lock’em up and throw away the key. As governor of the state, what is he intending to fix? If you are confused, you are not alone.
Another real possibility is Schroder’s whole purpose of going on WBOK is to show his base that he could flex on black people on their own turf. A true champion. But nope. This was just another example of a politician not reading the room. As a result, he took the initial step into not hearing his name when we announce Louisiana’s next governor.
But they Do not Oppose Funding Corporations
By Pat Bryant*
Floridians are shocked. Americans are shocked. Youth are shocked. Gays and transgender are shocked. Christians are shocked. Labor Unions are shocked. Teachers are shocked. There is general shock and awe at quick changes that have become law in one short year in Florida. The Florida Chamber of Commerce led its members. companies you spend money with daily, like Amazon, Publix Super Markets, Sun Trust Bank, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, State Farm Insurance Company, Florida Power and Light, Allstate, Duke Energy, Coca Cola, AT&T and the list includes more than 100 companies used by most Americans daily.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce through its Secure Florida’s Future Inc invested more than $8.5 million. Their money helped Republican candidates to achieve a super majority. They now control the Florida legislature. With that super majority and a willing Governor Ron DeSantis dramatic shifts occurred
, abortions after 6 weeks were banned,
what public school teachers can teach has been curtailed,
diversity inclusion and equity in colleges banned,
books banned in schools and libraries,
guns are legally carried concealed by all,
and Disney’s perks that allow a self-governing district was taken back when Disney got out of line with the program. They criticized the “Don’t Say Gay Law” passed to curtail discussion of gender in public schools.
Unlimited funding by corporations has exploded in Florida since Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission case in 2012. In the case, the US Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional for corporations to make unlimited political contributions. And those contributions are shielded by third parties.
Floridians Shocked, Unhappy with DeSantis
The Nazification of Florida, is almost complete. Now anyone can can arm themselves and shoot an “undesirable”. Three white men are accused of doing that two weeks ago in the Jacksonville killing of a Black man in the wee hours of the morning. And with radical Republican well-funded legislators, this Florida Nazification may be hard to turn around.
Governor Ron DeSantis gets the notoriety for these changes. In fact these are the most in any period of Florida history, including period ending the first Reconstruction around 1900. But these changes could not have been made without the money. And citizens gave McDonald Corporation, Burger King, Publix Super Market and other members of the Florida Chamber of Commerce millions.
So far there has been a reluctance of Florida’s progressive leaders to challenge DeSantis funders. DeSantis is readying a run for president of the United States as Republican Party nominee or from a third party. Many are protesting though. There have been several marches to the legislature, demonstrations, arrests at DeSantis office. Even our youth had a coordinated walkout of high school and college students for anti-DeSantis and anti-legislature rallies. But not a peep at the businesses that gave the money that made Nazification of Florida possible.
Floridians Shocked, Unhappy with DeSantis
Florida branches of the NAACP recommended that it National Organization ask its members not to come to Florida. Tourism is it major industry in the state. The Florida Immigrant Coalition, and Equality Florida, that represents LBGTQ have called for a national travel boycott of Florida. But none of these organizations target directly the companies that have created Nazification of Florida. This shift is spreading across the nation through affiliates of the United States Chamber of Commerce.
This writer texted several Florida leaders with the following text: “The crying shame is there is opposition to DeSantis, but very little opposition to the corporations that fund him and Trump”. Only one elected leader Senator Shevrin Jones, Democrat of Broward County that includes Fort Lauderdale, replied. “I actually agree with you.”
*Pat Bryant is a southern journalist who covers the Southern Freedom Movement
By David Soublet, Sr.
Starbucks operates a retail store in the Pan Am building on Poydras Street in New Orleans with 20 or so non-management workers (referred to as “partners”). The employees at this location, and several around the country, have recently filed to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Per Forbes magazine the Starbucks movement began in late 2021 when a Buffalo, NY store voted to unionize.
The website for Starbucks Workers United lists 15 so called “non-economic proposals” to ownership. They claim to already have 6,500 nationally organized workers. Most of the demands are common and realistic (e.g. guaranteed schedules, better benefits for full- and part-time workers). Others are, perhaps, indicative of hostile work environments at Starbucks. One proposal is a work environment “free of unlawful discrimination, harassment and bullying” and a “zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment and abuse”. Are these policies not already documented and posted prominently in the work sites? The workers also seek the right to defend themselves against customer aggression without retaliation. Seems pretty reasonable based on the multitude of videos circulating showing customers going bonkers in retail establishments.
Union members pay dues. Louisiana is a “right-to-work” state which presents disincentives to unionizing not found in other states. In right-to-work states, employees in unionized workplaces may refuse to join the union. But they still may enjoy the benefits of union membership, including the compensation negotiated by union officers. So, at a unionized Starbucks in Louisiana, one dues-paying barista could be preparing a $ 5 cinnamon dolce latte right next to a non-dues paying one whipping up a $ 5 iced caramel macchiato.
Last August 2022, Starbucks reportedly raised the minimum hiring wage in all U.S. stores to a $15/hour. Later last year they also implemented credit card / debit card tipping technology. That enables customers to further recognize their favorite coffee makers.
Daily retail coffee drinkers are amongst the most loyal customer base in the beverage industry. Starbucks reportedly grosses more than $ 32 billion in world-wide revenue, and boasts a 37% share of the U.S. market. Starbucks owns and operates about 9,300 in the U.S. Louisiana has 84, with 46 in the metro New Orleans area. Its big business by any measure, but its not an irreplaceable product. Those who must have it would probably make their own and bring it to work with them if they can’t buy it retail. Well, maybe not a macchiato.
Paying union dues while working in coffee retail at minimum wages doesn’t seem like the best move you could make to enhance your career. The path to decent wages in retail generally involves taking on managerial responsibilities. But, aren’t managers normally charged with many of the complaints lodged by the people they supervise? They must manage things like poor work schedules, inadequate staffing, discrimination and harassment. Perhaps lower-level employees at places like Starbucks would be better served by viewing their jobs more like short-term employment, and not worthy of paycheck deductions for union dues.
And now a word from our candidates for governor:
Black people, crime, crime, black people, enough is enough, lock’em up, throw away the key, hold everybody accountable, take back our streets. What about the T word? Can we break it out? Is it too early? Thug that is. Their dog-whistled name. Not yet? Okay. Let’s wait until election day gets closer.
Even Shawn Wilson (former Secretary of Transportation And Development Shawn Wilson, a democrat) has gotten in on the act, though in more holistic terms. Besides being tough on crime, he talks of working together with police, judges, social workers, psychologists, kids, and parents “to help solve the problems in communities where the crime actually exists.”
Apparently, going hard on crime has become the cost to get into the game. State Attorney General Jeff Landry has set the tone. “I’m holding everybody and I mean everybody accountable,” says Landry. State Treasurer John Schroder says, “We cannot allow criminals to cripple our communities.” And soon expect the rest of the field to ante up with their own stale rhetoric. Who’d want to be known as a softee on crime? Tough on crime gets people elected in the South.
Luckily, besides Landry and Schroder there’s no other major Republican contenders with stakes in the game. Otherwise, when it became apparent that some candidate was on the verge of wasting millions of dollars of other people’s money, this mild mannered lock’em up and throw away the key might’ve escalated into desperate heaves of bring back the firing squad or electric chair.
Governor’s Race Is Off to A Stereotypical Start
But unluckily for us, there’s no other major Republican contenders in the game to stake an alternate or nuanced approach to crime. Louisiana, the on-again-off-again capitol of incarceration, has thrown away a whole generation of keys, and yet crime still remains. Maybe, just maybe, the criminals aren’t getting the message. Or they aren’t responding to it in the way the Lock’em ups would like.
Cue in the definition of insanity. Maybe, just maybe, the approach shouldn’t be to keep doing the same thing over and over again. The last time Lock’em up we saw the state realize that it couldn’t afford to house an endless amount of people in jail. Any candidate vowing to go forth as governor with the same failed approach should be appropriately judged as archaic, or uumm insane?
Some would say that the candidates are just echoing public sentiment. And that’s probably true. But how did that sentiment come about? Is that how we naturally respond to people who commit crimes or is that the way politicians have conditioned us to feel? Does it matter, though, if either way that approach, lock’em up and throw away the key, has turned out to be completely ineffective?
Governor’s Race Is Off to A Stereotypical Start
Ironically, this race would be better for citizens if current Governor, John Bel Edwards, was doing a terrible job. Then the candidates could focus on budgets, coastal erosion, insurance, and diversifying our economy. But besides the Ronald Greene calamity, Edwards has been pretty hum-drum throughout his term. That has caused this race to initially devolve into which Republicans love to spout – tough on crime.
Expect that to continue. Expect candidates to go hard on drag queens and transgenders. Also expect vows to wage a war on woke, CRT, and all other types of pandering. Just don’t expect them to show a shred of originality. And by all means don’t expect them to veer from the crowd and do something courageous like lead.
One thought on “Metro Disposal Labor Pains”
Why not hire direct and pay the workers the amount paying a third party. If they are such good businessmen, create an HR and hire directly. $11 is not $15 an hour. The job is not an easy job. People are nasty and I have seen trash days. Those guys should get the entire $15 not $11 and the 3rd party collecting such a large fee to do a job Metro can do in house. This community supported Metro when contracts were threatened and to see how the company operates is disappointing. I see why the unions try to help. I’m with the workers and they deserve at least $15 an hour not $11. Do the right thing. Can you survive on $11 an hour Metro?