It is well known that Black folk have historically had to do more with less . . . work twice as hard and be twice as good to get half as much. Those well-worn phrases, however undue and unjust, are engrained in the Black experience in America.
But when it comes down to business in the City of New Orleans, those tropes don’t cut it.
Before Metro Disposal’s contract with the City was terminated, it was only getting $13.60 per household from the city for twice weekly garbage collection. Right now, Richard’s Disposal is still only getting $13.75 per household for a contract that requires twice weekly garbage collection. Meanwhile, the city’s newest garbage contractors, IV Waste and Waste Pro, earn $21.28 and $22.88, respectively, per household, for once a week pickup.
That ain’t right.
If you follow The New Orleans Tribune then you know that we have been ardent supporters of both Metro Disposal and Richard’s Disposal dating back to 2006, when the Black-owned firms were awarded prime contracts by the Nagin administration to provide garbage collection service in New Orleans. We were elated, not just for these companies and the men that own them, but for the community.
That is why we spoke out when the contracts came “under review” during former mayor, Mitch Landrieu’s administration.
And yes, we have been disappointed by the way both contractors have been handled under the current administration. We previously shared our concerns about the garbage collection contracts with the Mayor and had hoped that she would do more to empower these Black businessmen so that they could best serve the people of New Orleans.
It is a big deal because we know that when Black-owned businesses prosper, Black families and the Black community prosper as well. Those contracts were and are important. They create jobs, support families and provide resources for a myriad of community efforts. A number of organizations, such as the non-profit Silverback Society, which trains and coordinates men to volunteer as mentors to Black boys across the community, have benefitted from Metro Disposal’s support over many years.
When our businesses are under attack, our entire community is under attack. And quite frankly, we are dismayed that the Cantrell administration has not taken a different approach in its dealings with these two contractors.
With that said, we also have all sorts of side-eye glance for the local mainstream media that is all of sudden reporting on apparent disparities in the way garbage contracts have been and are being handled by the City. It is not at all lost on us that these same media outlets have long offered rather one-sided reports about poor service and so-called failures on the part of Richard’s Disposal and Metro Disposal without taking a deep dive into the details. Their constant reports have fueled the frenzy that has resulted in these Black-owned companies coming under fire. And we see this recent report for what it is – another attempt to paint the Mayor in a bad light as this recall effort enters its final stretch and scrambles to meet its goal. Just because we don’t agree with how the Mayor has handled this business does not mean we see it as a cause for recall.
Oh, and we have some left side-eye for any member of the City Council using this “revelation” to express indignation. For the last several years, members of the New Orleans City Council have pointed fingers at these contractors amid garbage collection issues apparently without caring about or fully understanding what it actually costs to provide quality service to the people of New Orleans. And they were happy to do so so long as it earned them some political brownie points.
Now, all of sudden, District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso is concerned about parity. Then again, at least he is saying something. For sure, there are members of the current City Council (yes, we are referring to at-large members Helena Moreno and JP Morrell) that prematurely launched their mayoral campaigns by lambasting these two Black contractors. And they don’t appear to be too concerned that the new contractors are raking in nearly twice as much. We refuse to believe that members of the New Orleans City Council are just now finding out that these Black-owned businesses were expected to do more for less or that what they are paid is woefully inadequate for the tasks they are and were contracted to peform. If they didn’t know, shame on them.
At the very least, red flags should have waved and bells should have gone off when IV Waste and Waste Pro were able to command nearly twice the rate that the Black contractors were making. No one on the dais thought to themselves then that maybe part of the problem is that we have not been paying enough for this much-needed service. After all, this hullabaloo has been about the quality of life for the people of New Orleans, right?
We also find ourselves wondering why Jimmie Woods of Metro and Alvin Richard of Richard’s would agree to inadequate contracts. Then we remembered that it was back in 2010 when Mayor Landrieu had both companies in his crosshairs, that the two businessmen agreed to significantly lower their rates just to keep their contracts. Read: Black folk being forced to undercut and undervalue themselves just to get a chance to prove their worth . . . just to stay in the game.
The bottom line is that there are those who have taken issue with garbage contracts ever since they were awarded to Black-owned businesses. We feared from Day One that these businessmen would not be treated justly. This was not news.
Those observations aside, fair is fair.
If Richard’s Disposal is currently making nearly half of what IV Waste and Waste Pro are making, that inequity needs to come to an end YESTERDAY. It is common sense!
If the per household rates that IV Waste and Waste Pro are receiving are aligned with what it actually costs a garbage collection contractor to adequately perform garbage pickup, then why on this side of heaven should Richard’s Disposal be expected to do it for 40 percent less and criticized when he can’t. To not see the boll weevil in that cotton is intentionally and maliciosly unfair. No one will convince us of anything to the contrary.
The original awarding of those contracts was historical. It marked the very first time that Black-owned businesses were awarded lucrative public contracts as prime servicers in the City’s history. And repeated attempts to wrest these contracts away from these businessmen have been steeped in racism from the start. Perhaps that is why it troubles us so that the Mayor has allowed herself to be a party to these actions.
Not to worry. This can be fixed. Contracts can be renegotiated – even in the public sector. If the expectations are the same, then the money should be also. And if they can’t be renegotiated, well then . . . you get what you pay for. Period.