Skip to main content

Defending Workers’ Rights Across Racial Lines

Resource type: Grantee Story

Aside from physical devastation, Hurricane Katrina created opposing demographic trends simultaneously in the Gulf Coast region. New Orleans, which had been majority African American, now has a white majority. Adding to the complexity was the arrival of thousands of immigrants, mainly Spanish-speaking, looking for work.

Alongside the tensions that surface when communities are forced by tragedy to co-exist as never before, new opportunities arise to address common problems such as finding decent work.

“In a Wild West-like recovery period, most workers in the Gulf Coast have faced poor pay, abuse and wage theft,” says Minor Sinclair, Oxfam America’s U.S. Regional Director. “We have an opening here to defend workers’ rights across racial lines.”

Our three-year grant supports Oxfam America’s Gulf Coast Immigrant and Worker Rights Initiative, which partners with local organisations including the New Orleans Center for Racial Justice, Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, Pro Bono Project, Louisiana Justice Institute and Puentes, Inc. Together, they defend people’s rights through state policy advocacy, impact litigation, leadership development and public campaigns.

“To overcome exploitation, there must be a greater sense of understanding among all communities,” says Mr. Sinclair. “The presence of immigrants in the Gulf Coast can’t be an excuse to drive down wages and drive up abuses.”

Related Resources


Human Rights & Reconciliation

Global Impact:

United States


Oxfam, Oxfam America