An Open Letter to The People of New Orleans Regarding Metro Service Group from Reverend Dr. Willie Gable, Jr. and Members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater New Orleans.
New Orleans, LA – Dear Community Members:
As spiritual leaders in our community we feel compelled to unify in one voice denouncing what we believe to be unwarranted disturbing assaults against two exemplary business leaders. We pray that you will lend your prayerful support and otherwise speak out against these perturbing behaviors and actions aimed at men who have proven to be good citizens in our community for a very long time.
Now, for more than three months, there has been a steady drumbeat of allegations made largely by individuals aligned with special interest groups and competing businesses against Jimmie and Glenn Woods of Metro Service Group. We believe these allegations have no bases in facts and are a calculated attempt to harm the reputation and business stability of well-respected African-American businessmen. As leaders in our city’s religious community, we condemn these unfounded allegations and encourage you to stand with us for what is right and just. We are also concerned that the most vulnerable members who work as hoppers have been co-opted during a time of racial change in this country. The fear and anxiety that many black men experience right now creates vulnerability that has been used by wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Several weeks ago, hundreds of protestors, many from out of town, took their complaints to Jimmie’s neighborhood, marching to Jimmie’s home, trampling his yard, disturbing and his family and neighbors and pounding on his front door in a mock gesture of engagement. This is not engagement; this is a reproduction of forced entry against a Black family with children. Clearly, to those of us who have watched this malicious and highly personal attack play out through social media, TV stories and more, it is time to set the record straight and define these protests for what they are and to document the truth.
What you have likely heard or read as reported by biased media, represents the self interested protestors’ false and malicious information and has no true basis in fact. The community knows of the kindness, generosity, and sensitivity of someone who engages in racial uplift, rather than the oppressive practices reported through local media sources. People who live here and know Metro and the Woods family know better. Here are the facts, which we would encourage you to share with others who may have been influenced by these unwarranted and insulting attacks.
1. No Metro employees are on strike. Not one. The small groups of strikers are employed by a staffing company that also provides employees to other sanitation companies in New Orleans and across the country.
2. No striker has been fired by Metro or the staffing company. The staffing company has released its own statement to verify this fact. While Metro respects their right to strike, any who have chosen to do so have been invited to return to work when they wish.
3. All Metro employees and contractors are paid in compliance with the city’s Living Wage ordinance, which is a minimum of $11.19 per hour. No one is paid under that amount and many are paid more. Metro’s pay scale is in line with other sanitation companies in our State.
4. Jimmie and Glenn Woods fully understand the important and often unpleasant work undertaken daily by the hoppers. They both grew up in the sanitation business and worked as hoppers early in their careers. They are very sensitive to the challenges and demands faced by hoppers everyday and work hard to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
5. All truck hoppers are fully provided with PPE by both Metro and their staffing company. Before the strike even started Metro bought 15,000 masks, 2000 pairs of industrial safety gloves, large amounts of sanitizer and more, and all drivers and hoppers are given a generous amount for their shifts.
6. No one has been permanently replaced with “prison labor”. However, during the first four days of the strike, Metro was forced to subcontract with a work release program to meet the temporary staffing shortfall in order for Metro to honor its contract with the city. The Woods family has always supported programs that help formerly incarcerated men and women return to society. They don’t apologize for that fact and no one should have to. Metro “banned the box” before it became law and thus helped many vulnerable and least likely to be employed Black men to enter the workforce.
7. No sanitation company in the city is providing hazard pay, yet these protestors have singled out Metro, an African-American owned business while not even questioning the practices of others. This fact is especially egregious and is shamelessly racially motivated. Metro fully supports hazard pay for all sanitation workers, nurses, bus drivers, hospitality workers and other frontline essential personnel and has actively encouraged both the federal and state governments to provide it since small, locally owned businesses cannot do so on their own.
As local ministers, pastors and religious leaders we see first-hand, every day the harmful effects of actions that divide and threaten our community. We see what joblessness and a lack of steady income does to destroy families and bring poverty and despair to our people.
We understand the value of local jobs for local people and the need to support and stand up for African-American owned businesses that have long been there for us. And we also see very plainly that these attacks represent a reproduction of neocolonialist practices. Unfortunately, as we have all become familiar as of late with institutional and structural racism and the many ways that various institutions including media promote these practices; those who are instigating the attacks against Metro are nowhere to be seen in our neighborhoods, in our streets or in our churches unless doing so serves their selfish purposes first and foremost.
We urge all local residents to think for themselves, to get the facts and not just read the headlines, and to set the record straight when these unfounded and divisive allegations are thrown around so cheaply against people we know and value as friends, employers and public-minded citizens.
Reverend Dr. Willie Gable, Jr., President
The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
About the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance:
The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance is metro New Orleans oldest and largest inter-faith civil rights and social justice advocacy organization, with pastors serving more than 55,000 congregation members.