The demolition work was the hardest. We tore down everything inside the schools we were cleaning because, in some of the schools, the water had risen up to the roofs.
The companies that came from outside Louisiana caused us many more problems than people from here in New Orleans. When our bosses talked to us, it was like they were talking to animals. They abused us just to make themselves richer. At times, I was afraid even to ask to go to the bathroom. We had to always keep working hard. If someone asked for a break, they told him he had two options -- to continue working or be fired. People carried on because the desperation to be paid was so great -- to have money for food, to help our families, and for other personal reasons. We know that we have to work, but I believe they should treat us well and with respect like any other person from the United States.
When the company didn’t pay us when they had promised they would, I heard of people who didn’t have food to eat. I saw people cry as well. I don’t know if it was out of desperation or out of hunger. The company had told us that they would provide us food. But we didn’t eat. Why? Because when lunch didn’t arrive, they didn’t care. They would leave us there without food.
At the beginning, when we first started, everyone worked well and everyone looked normal. When three weeks had passed, people looked thinner and looked tired as if they didn’t have the hope of anything except to keep waiting for their first paycheck.
I saw something else in people -- that they didn’t know whether to continue working or to quit. They said, “If I leave they won’t pay me and, if I stay, who knows what will happen?” There wasn’t any other option because many people didn’t have the money to return to the state they had come from. If they didn’t continue working for the company they’d be kicked out of the hotel and would have to sleep in the street. And, because of all this, they had to continue. They were forced to do it.