LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI: A PATH OUT OF POVERTY

Fisherman Lloyde Duncan(l) of Venice, LA has fished all his life. Photo: Audra Melton/Oxfam America

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Building a path out of poverty by training workers for good jobs​ 

While Louisiana and Mississippi have some of highest rates of poverty in the US, it’s not because people don’t work. It’s because so many jobs pay low wages. Both states rank in the top five for people working while earning under $10/hour; the problem of poverty is not individual, but rather the result of a dearth of quality jobs.

Oxfam believes that there should be reliable pathways out of poverty for families of low-wage earners. Funded by a generous grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Oxfam currently works on issues that affect working families in Louisiana and Mississippi, including raising awareness about issues that affect working families, organizing workforce training and job placement for decent jobs, and engaging with local companies and employers.

Raising awareness about working families in Louisiana

Louisiana has no state minimum wage; all workers are subject to “at will” employment; and the state is considered “right to work.” Oxfam works with partners to create original research on the impact of the current wage laws on working families in Louisiana, and raise awareness about economic barriers facing working people. Oxfam’s partners work with grassroots groups across the state, expanding our area of impact to include overlooked rural communities. This work ensures that constituents are better informed of policy issues affecting them, and are empowered to participate in the democratic process.

Oxfam is proud to partner with:

  • Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) works to make Louisiana government transparent and accountable to all citizens by monitoring and reporting on public policy and how it affects low- to moderate-income families. LBP was formed in 2006 as an initiative of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations, and became a stand-alone organization in 2013.
  • The Power Coalition is a civic engagement table that builds infrastructure in Louisiana to shift power back to the people and increase voter participation. The coalition pushes for real voice and power in communities through the People’s Agenda, a statewide platform of shared values. The coalition builds infrastructure in order to achieve a shift in public debate, civic engagement, breaking down the functional barriers between communications, research, policy, organizing and voter education.
  • Workplace Justice Project (WJP) at Loyola University builds resources and enforces workers’ rights, cultivating legal and economic opportunities to uphold and respect the dignity of all workers. WJP was founded in 2005 to meet the legal needs of mostly immigrant low-wage workers in Louisiana, a state that poses acute challenges for workers. In response, WJP takes a three-pronged approach: education, litigation, advocacy.

Training workers for better jobs and a path out of poverty

Oxfam collaborates with partners on workforce development programs in Louisiana and Mississippi to draw more heads of households into decent jobs in the workforce. As families move out of poverty, the impact is dramatic: better housing, nutrition, health and education are all directly linked to improved economic security.

Oxfam is proud to partner with:

  • Limitless Vistas, Inc (LVI), based in New Orleans, is an organization devoted to creating opportunities for disconnected young adults. Their mission is to help young adults obtain the skills and knowledge to become gainfully employed in the environmental or conservation industries, build a hopeful future, develop civic pride, and establish life-long conservation skills and attitudes. They provide free environmental conservation workforce development and job training, and they have trained over 500 local individuals with a placement rate of 75%.
  • Urban League of Louisiana (ULLA) works to assist African-Americans and other communities seeking equity to secure economic self-reliance, parity, and civil rights.  ULLA implements programs in the areas of education and youth development, workforce and economic development, public policy, and advocacy initiatives throughout the state of Louisiana.

A history of restoring vital resources to safeguard ecosystems and communities

After the BP oil spill in 2010, Oxfam played a crucial role in advocating for passage of the RESTORE Act in 2012. This historic measure ensures that when BP and other companies responsible for the spill pay civil fines, the money will go directly to the Gulf Coast to restore vulnerable communities, ecosystems, local economies and working families. Oxfam helped craft language in the legislation to promote the training and hiring of local workers in new ecosystem restoration jobs, ensuring local communities can benefit from the Gulf’s multi-billion dollar restoration economy.

Oxfam also helped pass laws in Louisiana and Mississippi to give local people a first shot at new jobs that will be created with the civil fines. Oxfam continues to work to ensure that these policies are implemented in ways that bring economic and environmental benefits to the most vulnerable communities through coastal restoration projects and skill training and hiring processes to employ people most affected by the oil spill.

To support our policy positions, Oxfam has issued several research reports:

  • Building the Gulf: Findings from a 2014 workshop convened by Oxfam America, the Nature Conservancy, and the Corps Network, where experts sought to identify challenges and opportunities in integrating workforce development into future ecosystem restoration projects. 
  • A Way of Life at Risk: On the fourth anniversary of the BP oil spill in April, 2014, Oxfam released a report that explores how the oil spill devastated fishing communities along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
  • The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems is a report from Oxfam and the Center for American Progress (CAP) that analyzes the economic benefits generated by coastal restoration projects, and shows that long-term economic benefits can far exceed project costs.  
  • Integrating Social Science and Gulf Coast Restoration contains findings from a social science workshop sponsored by Oxfam and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2013. A group of 55 scholars and practitioners convened to consider how coastal residents’ needs, knowledge, and concerns can be addressed in sound restoration projects.
  • Contracting Preferences for Restore Act-Funded Projects offers recommendations to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council on prioritizing local hiring.
  • Beyond Recovery: Moving the Gulf Coast Toward a Sustainable Future proposes a plan to restore the region, building on existing assets and leveraging incoming federal funding to spark innovation and collaboration, putting local communities to work.
  • Rebuilding Our Economy, Restoring Our Environment is a report from Oxfam and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that explores how the emerging restoration economy offers new and expanded opportunities for Gulf Coast businesses and communities.
  • One Gulf, Resilient Gulf is a report co-signed by over 120 Gulf Coast organizations presenting a plan for a community-based environmental and economic recovery effort drafted immediately after the 2010 BP Oil Spill.

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