I've been living in New Orleans for four years. There were Latinos here before the hurricane, but not so many like now. Because of the hurricane, my husband and I went to New York. While we were in New York, a friend of mine called me from here and said, "Come back down here, there's work." We needed the work, so we came back, and I began working for a company doing clean-up work. Every day we got to work at 7 a.m. and left at 5 p.m. There was still so much water. We began cleaning -- pulling out all the filthy things that were completely wet, covered in mold. They smelled awful. We pulled out all the trash from the buildings, tore down the walls with hammers, and then dragged everything outside. It wasn't easy.
We worked in different locations and I wasn't paid anything for my work. The company owners kept telling us that we were going to receive our checks -- first it was Monday and then it was going to be Wednesday. We would all wait in a long line for our paychecks from 6 p.m. until midnight or 2 a.m. after working all day. There were hundreds of us waiting. Some people would be paid, but the majority were not. When my turn arrived to get my check, I'd already been working two weeks, and I was angry because I hadn't been paid. I'd been working to make enough money in order to buy food.
The owner said that my check hadn't been issued by the computer, and I would just have to wait to get it another day. I began crying in front of everyone and told the owner, "You're abusing us." There were four security guards, and the owner yelled to them, "Kick this woman out of here." I told the security guards not to touch me because I was within my rights, and I was only demanding what I had earned with my sweat.
It was Christmas time and, after not being paid, I went to New York to visit my children. I had to go there without a cent. Now, two months later, I still haven't received a single check for that work. The work was so hard and so difficult that we did. Imagine them no paying you for it!
I'm afraid that I'll be hurt by the companies again. I want to leave here because I'm really frustrated. Now, people don't trust working here because they think they're not going to be paid for their work. Really, those people abused us all. I'm planning to leave for New York. I've spent four years in New Orleans, but now I just want to leave. I don't want to be here anymore.