Union workers and politicians discuss labor concerns at the New Orleans AFL-CIO Labor Day Picnic

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — Many employers continue to struggle to find staff, with federal figures showing at least 10 million current job openings in the United States. And many of these disgruntled workers cite several reasons why some are reluctant to return to the workforce amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor issues were front and center Monday (September 5), when unionized workers were joined by state and local politicians for the New Orleans AFL-CIO Labor Day Picnic at City Park. The annual event had been canceled for the past two years due to COVID-19.

“Working conditions, pay, safety are a big issue,” said United Steelworkers Local 13-447 member John Gros. “And that has a lot to do with it, doesn’t it? People want to go to work and be respected, want to be treated fairly and that’s – I think – the jackpot. »

Recruitment and retention are important issues for companies large and small. New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno said the city is looking for creative ways to get people back into the workforce.

“It’s just about thinking outside the box, knowing what’s going to be a better work environment to attract more people, and it’s not just about salary,” she said.

President Joe Biden said that nation’s unemployment rate is the lowest in over 50 years, and more people are working than ever before. But employers are finding that these workers are becoming more selective.

“On the one hand, there’s not enough body,” Moreno said. “But the other element is also that you have jobs that are still relatively low-paying jobs that require a ton of work.”

From steel workers to carpenters to teachers, from the oil and gas industry to the film industry and more, many employers are in a difficult situation to fill positions.

“I think there’s a disconnect between the kind of compensation and reimbursement that people like to see and what’s available right now,” said IATSE Local 470 member Bennett Champagne. “As this gets fixed, people will take on more work.”

Teacher Keely Hill, a member of AFT UTNO Local 527, said: ‘If they are really concerned about getting teachers and keeping teachers here year after year, we need to look at the quality of the conditions of work and the quality of conditions. for students. »

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in New Orleans has increased since the beginning of the year, standing at 5%. It comes after a August jobs report showed that 315,000 jobs were added to the economy as the national unemployment rate rose to 3.7%.

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