Working families in the Gulf region are being hit by a second disaster as the Bush administration uses the current emergency to slash wages and open the door for discriminatory hiring practices across an area already racked by poverty and inequality.

On Sept. 8, the president eliminated the federal requirement that work done with federal dollars be paid at “prevailing rate.” The next day, he gave new government contractors in the region a pass on requirements to have an affirmative action program for minorities, women, veterans and the disabled.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney accused the administration of being unprepared to respond to Hurricane Katrina, but “moving with astonishing speed to use this human crisis to push an anti-worker, right-wing agenda.”

The AFL-CIO says its seven Worker Centers throughout the Southeast are up and running to provide information and help to hurricane survivors and their families. The centers are in Atlanta; Baton Rouge, La.; Dallas; Houston; Mobile, Ala.; Pearl, Miss.; and San Antonio.

The federation announced that it would establish a blue ribbon panel, including former secretaries of Labor and Housing, to establish priorities for the reconstruction. Town hall meetings and community walks door-to-door in October, reminiscent of last year’s massive election outreach by labor, will mobilize support for national priorities that include rebuilding the Gulf region with good wages and affirmative action.

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