Issue # 3 Bamboulas Case Closed

BAMBOULA’S CASE CLOSED:

WORKERSORGANIZED FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND WON!!

-By Julianna Luna Vasquez

In July of 2017 I began working at Bamboula’s after moving to the Big Easy from New York City. Working on Frenchmen Street was a blast and I was pretty content making good money and hanging out with new friends in the service industry. As time went on at Bamboula’s my manager Jim became a bit too friendly and made a habit of invading my personal space. My co-workers began to notice too and I did what I could to address him directly and get him to stop.

One night he crossed the line by slapping my behind, that was it for me, this wasn’t the first time and I had it. I addressed my General Manager Jennifer Collins who shrugged it off by saying he was already getting suspended for something else, and that was that. It was there that Bamboula’s failed. They disregarded me and my complaints of Jim’s behavior so I had to quit. The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance listened to my story and together we organized an action against sexual harassment to hold Bamboulas accountable.

My story was a common story amongst the women who serve your drinks and meals, I couldn’t stand by and let another story like this play out. With the help of the HWC I found legal representation and filed an official complaint with the E.E.O.C. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). On February 23rd, 2018 The March Against Sexual Harassment was one of the most powerful days of my life. Together in community with my fellow hospitality workers, we stood against an abusive work environment and confronted Bamboula’s. We marched from Congo Square through the French Quarter to Bamboula’s front door.

We demanded that they take responsibility for their lack of action, when confronted with sexual harassment in the workplace. The agreement we came to terms with is one that puts education and communication into action as means to turn the tides of Bamboula’s and hopefully places like it. The New Orleans Hospitality Alliance will facilitate a sexual harassment workshop for the Bamboula’s workers where they will be paid by Bamboula’s for their time. Management of Bamboula’s will undergo a sexual harassment training by a professional provider chosen from a list curated by my lawyer Mr. Most and I. This is an agreement I consider a victory!

This is a framework for cases to come where organization and education come hand in hand to solve a deeply rooted issue impending on women and others in the hospitality industry. I want my case to be a catalyst for change in the service industry. At the beginning of this case I felt powerless and small, incapable of holding management responsible for the sexual harassment and disrespect I faced at BambouIa’s on a regular basis. This was not started on a motive to receive attention or money.

I tried to go through the right channels and resolve this in the “correct” manner but was met with negligence. This all started because I, Julianna Vasquez, and all of the women in the industry are entitled to respect, something every worker deserves. This is why I took a stand and shared my story. Regardless of what we wear, regardless of what is assumed or judged by others, and regardless of how much someone makes a night, NO ONE deserves to be violated or degraded. The workplace is where people earn their living not where they put themselves up for judgement, harassment, or abuse. Especially when perpetrated by management & customers, who abuse their authority.

I wanted to take a stand not solely for myself but for all women. Women in the industry are consistently put in the position to choose between their own self respect, or their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Sexual harassment and abuse of workers is rampant in the service industry, and I encourage others to use what power and voice you do have to stand up against it. It will not be easy. You will be scrutinized, ridiculed, and questioned at every turn. But this is how we can create change in this industry.

By standing together, using our voices, and organizing to hold establishments accountable, we workers yield the power to create the work environment we deserve. This direct action would not have been possible without the endless support of my family, my friends, andmost importantly the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance. I can only hope that this case inspires others to share their story, to rise up for a change, not just for themselves but for all workers everywhere.

To those who answered to my story with a shrug and an apathetic “that’s a part of the industry honey” I have something to say: that is the lamest excuse to enable predatory behavior and harassment. Will that be your response to your daughter, sister, wife or friend in the same situation? This exact outlook is what has perpetuating this behavior in this industry in the first place. That may been part of the industry before but guess what? Not anymore TIMES UP!

Debunking harmful myths about our migrant coworkers.

*reprinted from the New Orleans Workers Group*

-By Ashlee Pintos

The state of Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world and one of the lowest ranking public school systems. Unemployment of black men is over 50%, the federal minimum wage has not changed in over 25 years, Air BnBs have taken over neighborhoods as rents sky rocket--all while the rich ruling class of this city celebrate 300 years of oppression. Working class people in this city are definitely struggling, and our immigrant coworkers are not to blame. Once we realize the true cause of the issues at home, it’s not hard to see how this plays out both nationally and internationally.

It’s time to take a truthful look at the attacks being wages against immigrants. To draw workers’ attention away from their common enemy, the corporate government and media urges U.S. born workers to blame immigrants for their troubles. But is there any truth to their claims? It’s time we separate myths from facts.

MYTH: IMMIGRANTS DO NOT PAY TAXES

FACT: In 2014 alone, immigrant-led households in the state of Louisiana alone paid $966.7 million in Federal taxes and $363.3 Million in state and local taxes. What is even more important to note is that undocumented immigrants STILL paid about $68 million in taxes just in 2014, but if they were able to obtain legal status, their tax contributions would have been even more: an estimated $83.2 million! Also, DACA recipients in Louisiana paid an estimated $7.5 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

FACT: MAJOR CORPORATIONS AND BIG BUSINESS RECEIVE ENDLESS TAX BREAKS AND EVEN RECEIVE TAX MONEY TO FURTHER THEIR PROFITS. Just in 2016, the State of Louisiana paid out $216 Million more in tax credits and rebates to corporations than it collected in corporate income and franchise taxes. Every single year, over $140 Million gen-erated by taxes, such as the food and beverage tax (paid by locals) and tourist taxes like the hotel occupancy tax, DO NOT go into the city budget.

Instead, this money is given to private businesses such as the Tourism Marketing Corporation, New Orleans and Company, and countless others WITHOUT THE PEOPLES’ CONSENT.

MYTH: IMMIGRANTS TAKE JOBS AWAY

FACT: We are losing jobs, but it’s not the fault of our fellow workers. Companies are not only allowed to move out of the country, but are also given tax breaks to do so. Every “free-trade” agreement has reduced jobs both here and in Mexico. The companies want workers to compete against each other.

FACT: It is the capitalist system of profit-not immigrants-that prevents us from guaranteeing good jobs for all. Capital-that is, money invested to exploit workers—can go anywhere in the world while we the workers pay the price. Our work, our production, is connected globally. That’s why there are no borders in the workers’ struggle.

MYTH: IMMIGRANTS ARE A DRAIN ON THE ECONOMY

FACT: IMMIGRANTS PRODUCE JOBS. Over 9% of immigrants living in Louisiana are self-employed. In 2014, their businesses employed 39,000 people and generated $287 million in income.

FACT: IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTERS COST TAXPAYERS BILLIONS. It is estimated that over $3 Billion a year in U.S. taxpayer money goes to detaining undocumented people, a price that is rising since Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.

FACT: FOR-PROFIT PRISONS GET RICH WHILE WORKERS SUFFER

______________________________________________________________________________________

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR CORPORATE PROFIT, BUT NONE FOR WORKERS?

A huge portion of money generated from Tourism taxes goes right into the hands of the city’s wealthiest corporations and business owners all with the politician’s approval, without the people knowing about it. For example, in 2015 alone, hotel taxes were $165 Million. Local tax on all food and beverages (without voter approval) were $11.2 Million and all of these taxes were turned over to private corporations that are official commissions that have been put into the city charter along with the taxes dedicated to them that go directly to them.

Yes, over $140 Million every year goes to big business like Convention and Visitors Bureau ($17 Million), the LA Stadium and Exposition District ($57 Million), the Exhibition Hall Authority ($58 Million), and the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation ($12 Million).

In all, there are over 60 entities that receive money generated by tourism taxes. This is money that does not go into the general budget, does not get put towards bettering our communities, healthcare, or education. With all this money floating around, shouldn’t the workers at least have access to healthcare?

It gets worse, too. A recent report called the Disparity Study stated that only 2% of revenue generated by business in New Orleans goes to Black Businesses--that’s literally pennies on the dollar going to Black New Orleanians. And, the people in charge of these commissions, work hand-in-hand with the city council and the mayor to do this dirty work.

For example, the Board members of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation are from the biggest hotel and casino chains, real estate developers, and from other commissions such as the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the LA Restaurant Associations, as well as city council members and future mayor Latoya Cantrell, Stacy Head, Nadine Ramsey and Jason Williams.

As you can see, big business and government are working closely together to profit while the workers suffer. Although outrageous, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Decisions made by the state legislature are made in favor of big business, too.

In 2013, the city was denied by the state legislature a proposal to increase hotel tax by 1.75% for the general budget. One year later, in 2014, the state legislature passed a increased hotel tax (by you guessed it: 1.75%!) to be dedicated to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Tourism Marketing Corporation. Police of the French Quarter also got a piece: 0.25%. None of these figures talk about the tax breaks and back door deals that happen without the peoples’ approval or knowledge.

Workers Correspodence

-By S.O

I’ve been working at the same restaurant for about two years now. Like many restaurants in this city, I started off as a busser and worked my way up to server. For the first year I only worked weekends and thoroughly enjoyed it - the hours were amazing, the food was yummy, the pay was good, and my coworkers were like family. But once my schedule opened up and I was made a full time employee, I started to see how little this restaurant values their employees.

One of my own experiences with unfair treatment came three months after I moved up. I was informed that the company had accidentally forgotten to switch my pay from $7.25 (bussing wage) to $2.13 (serving wage) and therefore they had overpaid me about $1800. Although I had never seen most of that money (majority of it went to taxes) they gave me two options to pay it back out of pocket or to deduct the amount owed out of my paycheck.

I gave them permission to do the latter, which meant that instead of making $2.13 an hour, I would be making $0.01-0.05 an hour. They estimated that it would take about three months to settle my debt, but in actuality it took six. While this worked in my favor for this year’s tax season, I’m worried that it will negatively impact my taxes for 2019.

Taking account, and taking the right notes:

A guide to documenting workplace abuse

-By Anonymous worker

We all know that managers and companies try to use fear tactics to hold our jobs over our heads, intimidating us to accepting treatment we wouldn’t normally would accept. If you have been in hospitality for any time at all, I am sure you have your own version of the played out story of the manager that likes to bully, turn co workers against each other, and create heat- ed work atmospheres. They lay blame, pretend to be our friends, make threats to get everyone unnerved, and even fire us when we voice complaints of abuse.

Even fire us when we leave to have our children, or have medical emergencies. The extent to which unjust firings and treatment perpetrated by management and owners happens is far to often to view solely on an individual basis, but better viewed as a collective problem that the workers must organize to address.

If you find yourself in a work environment where management has their shit on backwards. If pay is coming out confusing, untimely, and distributions of the tips seem questionable. If shift demands are unreasonable. (And they even have the nerve to comment on your performance. When they are clearly overworking you with back to back shifts.). We have the tools we need to gather necessary receipts to help hold management and bosses accountable.

Shitty bosses and heartless companies have us under surveillance and use their power to get away with terrible treatment. It’s time our managers and bosses experienced surveillance & accountability from the workers. Workers need to take notes and make personal records of situations. We need to identify patterns and keep notes when we are not being treated right at work.

It’s often that an employer will fire a worker, after they make complaints of workplace abuse/violation of labor laws. This is illegal under federal law, and is considered wrongful workplace retaliation. This is just one of the many ways our bosses break federal labor laws. Unfortunately there are no state laws in place to protect workers, but we can hold our bosses accountable to federal laws, as we fight to get more protection on a city/state level.

There is always risk when authority feels their power or their control is being threatened. However, there would be no reason for someone in power to genuinely fear losing it unless there was a real chance that it could be taken. The potential power that workers have once organized is more than enough to win. The key is to make this documenting practice of power, as workers we must document our experiences. If we ever want to create accountability we’ll need to gather our receipts and build our collective power as workers.

You can keep a piece of paper on you or a small notepad. Do what feels safe and easy to access without being alarming to anyone. Here are somethings you might think about answering for yourself, and your own records. (take notes right after some- thing happens or before you go to bed).

Louisiana is a One-party consent states when it comes to recording conversations. “One-Party” Consent means as long as you are a participant in the conversation, you can record at will.

This means that you have the legal right to record any conversations you have with your bosses without them knowing about it.

But you CANNOT legally record conversations if you are not an actual PARTICIPANT in that conversation without those involved knowing about it.

If a management writes you up, ask for a copy of the disciplinary notice. Alway do your best to receive a copy/or get a picture of anything your employer has you sign. If you ever want to talk to someone more about your situation, reach out the Hospitality Workers Committee, we can help to navigate the situation, and help take action if necessary.

If you have a smartphone: You have an app for quick notes or sticky notes.

You have an email and can email messages to yourself.

You have a calendar and can make notes under dates.

You have a camera/video/recording

Time and date:

Quick Summary of situation:

What managers are involved:

Anyone else involved:

Is this only about you, or are others affected:

Are you being bullied:

Manipulated or Mistreated:

Is management using intimidation tactics:

What do you need to feel safe and supported on the job:

What needs to happen to make this situation right:

Introducing Serve the People

This is the 3rd issue of our grassroots monthly newsletter, made by and for the workers who create the tourism industry in New Orleans. We’re the ones who cook the food that tourists eat, make the beds that they sleep in and bike them around the quarter. We check them in, do their dishes, play them music, serve them drinks and clean up the mess they leave behind. These tourists do spend their money for the “experience”--lots of money. At least 7.5 billion dollars per year. And still most of us are poor and overworked, barely making ends meet. We have to stress about everything: bad public transportation, high rent and bills, regular flooding. It has a huge negative effect on our physical and mental health, but most of us don’t even have reliable access to medical care-let alone paid sick days.

With all of these problems and more: you are not alone. There are around ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND HOSPITALITY WORKERS IN NEW ORLEANS. We are all different in our specific circumstances. There is inequality among the workers in this industry--between different genders, different races, and different legal status. But the majority of us live in a similar reality: the reality of poverty. This newsletter exists to report on these realities. If we are ever going to have the power that we deserve in our city and at our jobs, we need to spread an understanding of the on-the-ground realities of the tourism industry from our perspective: the workers perspective. For this reason, we will use this newsletter to connect hospitality workers with an awareness of their shared struggles. We will spread this throughout the city, to as many workplaces as possible, to link the workers of New Orleans. We hope that one day the workers of New Orleans will march together for a better future--one band, one sound.

Issue # 2 An Open Letter to City Council

An Open Letter to New Orleans City Council Members

Jason Williams, Kristin Palmer and Jay H. Banks:

      Thank you for meeting with the Hospitality Workers Committee on May 30th, 2018. This meeting came about after our workers organization protested at a board meeting of the Tourism Marketing Corporation on May 15th. At that protest, we the workers, demanded that these funds be used to provide health-care for hospitality workers and to replace the lost wages of a worker, Laura Schnell, who suffers from a critical heart condition as a result of not having insurance. Thousands of workers throughout New Orleans do not have insurance, do not quality for Medicaid, and go untreated which leads to dire consequences such as the situation of Laura Schnell.

      Your response was to hold a press conference announcing that a new day was coming for us hospitality workers who currently suffer from low wages, wage insecurity, lack of sick pay, vacation time, workplace protections and humane scheduling. We quote Councilman Williams: “For the first 300 years of this city’s history, hospitality has looked one way, and I humbly submit that the next 300 years must look very different....I have made a clarion call to decision-makers in the industry to help us solve these issues and improve the quality of life of service industry employees.”

      We had hoped that in meeting with you following this press conference, that you three city council members would have presented us with concrete actions you would be willing to take to truly support the work of the NOHWC and workers rights. However, there were no concrete ideas to actually improve the conditions of workers; it was quite the opposite. At the meeting between you three council members and organizers from the NOHWC, you, Councilwoman Palmer, questioned whether or not it was legal to use these funds for a medical clinic or healthcare for hospitality workers.

      You three council members sit on the (non-elected) Tourism Marketing Corporation Board. The Board of these private/public commissions decides how the money is used. This does not require a city council vote. Will these millions of dollars go towards elaborate celebrations and grand openings for new business ventures for the city’s wealthiest? Will the board members enjoy a luxury meal served by the very workers they continuously chose to ignore? How long will the workers who hold up this city have to suffer while big business and corporations flourish from our labor?

     The workers of this city demand that the $140 Million generated by tourism taxes be put toward healthcare for us workers. We await a response with concrete actions.

     Sincerely,

              The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee


Workers response to claims of staff shortages.

By Nick Passabet

Restaurant owners are grumbling about staff shortages. Last week, nola.com and wwltv ran features highlighting the inability of bosses to retain staff in their kitchens and dining floors. While they mention reasons for this (‘there are more enticing service opportunities like Lyft and Uber’, ‘there are too many restaurants in the city’, ‘there aren’t enough people living in the city’ paraphrase a few examples) the complaint itself is completely unfounded. There are thousands of capable New Orleanians who can fill these positions, so why aren’t bosses hiring them?

Not new is the fact that New Orleans is a majority Black city. It is especially despicable that the unemployment rate for African-American males (working age, and adjusted for seasonality) is 48%. When asked, countless New Orleans workers can attest to the racist hiring practices in this city. We see how the front and back of house is often segregated, placing black and brown workers in lower paying positions. Those with firing/ hiring power should take a look in the mirror and ask themselves: why aren’t you hiring people? Why aren’t you offering training? If restaurants want long-term workers they need to invest in them through training, consistent living wages, and benefits.

A thorough look at restaurant culture will unearth considerable racism, sexism, and other normalized inequalities. The subtext of the recent articles makes this power imbalance clear: half a dozen GMs, head chefs, and owners were interviewed (Christian Pendelton appears in both) but only one hired employee answers questions in one of the articles (wwltv). Having no voice in the mass media is the least concern of most restaurant workers. The “gig economy” ensures almost all of us have no protection from rampant wage theft, no protection from racial discrimination and harassment, no health insurance, no reliable public transportation, no free parking, no pensions, no protections from sexual harassment, no sick days or vacation time and basically no control over when or how much we will be working each week.

This entire write-up could have be spent simply debunking the misinformation Pen- delton spreads. It will suffice to say that for each waiter Mr. Pendelton claims is earning above a living wage, there are literally thousands of servers, dishwashers, line cooks, bartenders, bussers and others workers in restaurants across the city taking home poverty wages with no benefits and probably working multiple jobs with both jobs demanding full-time availability for part-time work. Stated even more briefly, he doesn’t know who he’s talking about.

Restaurants as they are currently operated are undesirable and hostile places to work. The ways they treat, and permit their customers to treat their employees is disgraceful. These jobs provide the bare minimum for survival in the 21st century, hardly any opportunities for those working to advance and no incentives for their workforce to stay. It’s time restaurant owners change how they’re treating their workforce, the industry can afford to make changes and improve the standard of working conditions. Workers see only crumbs of the $7.5 billion they can be counted on to generate in revenue each year. Owners will continue to ignore and silence the working people, we the cooks, servers, baristas, bartenders, dishwashers, house-keepers, valets, etc, must organize and demand the changes we want to see in our workplaces.

French Rail Workers Strike for their Rights

-By Dylan Borne

Workers in France have a very keen understanding of “acquired rights.” They know that the government doesn’t hand them anything without a fight: the workers had to struggle for what they have, from education to pensions to a stable work schedule. This philosophy pays off: French workers over the years have won pensioned retirement at age 60 and a 35-hour stable workweek with a decent salary. So when the government tries to cut back on these rights, the workers know to fight back. That’s exactly what’s been happening this past June. The “President for the wealthy” Emmanuel Macron wants to slash rail worker protections.

On top of these threats, their work conditions are already very unhealthy as it is. Rail workers are on the job late into the night one day and early in the morning on the other. They work with cancer-causing asbestos, and 30 to 50 die each year of asbestos-related disease. Now France’s president is acting like they don’t deserve the pay and protections that they have. It’s clear that wealthy rail corpWorations are pulling the strings with President Macron, trying to maximize their profits at the workers’ expense. But the rail workers won’t have it. 95% of them oppose the new law. 25,000 took to the streets in protest. Led by four major unions, workers across France have been striking for 2 out of every 5 days for 3 months. It’s their longest strike in 30 years. They chose this strategy so that they could make the strike protracted, expecting the government not to cave so easily. Sure enough, one union extended its strike to July when the government refused to meet its demands.

Students and retirees have joined in the protests, knowing that a rising tide lifts all boats (better pensions and wages for some workers forces other companies to raise pensions and wages for everyone to compete). Teachers, nurses, and air traffic controllers are all striking in solidarity, and are each negotiating pay raises and protections of their own.

The Hospitality Workers Alliance stands in solidarity from New Orleans! Our struggles for a predictable workweek, better pay, and benefits are the same as theirs. What’s true in France is true here: rights aren’t given, they are won.

What is The Hospitality Workers Alliance?

The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee is an organization created by and for hospitality workers. We fight for our long overdue rights using the power of collective struggle. Under the guidance of labor history we know that an organized workforce is how workers win. This city has 100,000 hospitality workers, organized & united we have the power to shut this city down. If we all went on strike tomorrow the money would stop flowing, and our bosses and representatives would have no choice but to adhere to our demands. We are opposed to all forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. We support full rights & protections for our immigrant co workers. We understand our bosses use tactics that weaponize forms of discrimination to further divide workers, we must stand firm against these divisive tactics. The committee respects black, brown, women, and LGBTQ workers and welcomes them to take on leadership in the organization. Our purpose is to organize our fellow hospitality workers so that we may secure just working conditions in our industry --- wages we can live on, benefits to support our families and freedom from harassment and dis-ncrimination in the workplace. Only through organizing will we be able to demand a better future for hospitality workers. We fight for better working conditions, both for workers currently in the industry and the children in the community who will inherit the industry.

Issue #1 Addressing the TMCB & Solidarity in Oregon

HOSPITALITY WORKERS ALLIANCE LETS

TOURISM MARKETING CORPORATION HAVE IT:

“WE DEMAND A FREE HEALTH CLINIC!”

CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS RESPOND WITH

PRESS CONFERENCE ENDORSING THE IDEA

-By Meg Maloney

On May 15th, The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee shook up the Tourism & Marketing Corporation Board meeting. The Tourism Marketing Corporation Board is an unelected board controlled by the biggest tourist companies. They get $140 million in hotel tax money without any public say in how its used. This tax money completely bypasses the City’s general budget without the people’s consent.

Wearing bright red t-shirts, 60 members stood while several representatives of the Committee gave statements demanding that the Tourism Corporation return our stolen taxes by building a FREE FULL-SERVICE MEDICAL CLINIC for hospitality workers. A few days later Council people Williams, Banks and Palmer held a press conference with the Corporation and the Convention Center stating that they agree this needs to be done. This is a great victory for the Committee and, more importantly, for the 88,000 hospitality workers who generate $7.5 billion dollars but see little of it returned to us. Committee member Pintos said “this came about through workers organizing ourselves, and we know we will have to keep organizing to hold the Council to their words and make the clinic a reality. We urge all our fellow workers to get involved in organizing with the Committee.” We are also fighting for a city ordinance for better scheduling and paid sick-days and will be urging the Council to take this up.

Introducing Serve The People

This is the first issue of our grassroots monthly newsletter, made by and for the workers who create the tourism industry in New Orleans. We’re the ones who cook the food that tourists eat, make the beds that they sleep in and bike them around the quarter. We check them in, do their dishes, play them music, serve them drinks and clean up the mess they leave behind.

These tourists do spend their money for the “experience”-- lots of money. At least 7.5 billion dollars per year. And still most of us are poor and overworked, barely making ends meet. We have to stress about everything: bad public transportation, high rent and bills, regular flooding. It has a huge negative effect on our physical and mental health, but most of us don’t even have reliable access to medical care let alone paid sick days.

With all of these problems and more: you are not alone. There are around

ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND HOSPITALITY WORKERS IN NEW ORLEANS.

We are all different in ourspecific circumstances. There is inequality among the workers in this industry between different genders, different races, and different legal status. But the majority of us live in a similar reality: the reality of poverty.

This newsletter exists to report on these realities. If we are ever going to have the power that we deserve in our city and at our jobs, we need to spread an understanding of the on-the-ground realities of the tourism industry from our perspective: the workers perspective.

For this reason, we will use this newsletter to connect hospitality workers with an awareness of their shared struggles. We will spread this throughout the city, to as many workplaces as possible, to link the workers of New Orleans. We hope that one day the workers of New Orleans will march together for a better future-- one band, one sound.

Workers Correspondence

-By Laran Padua

My name is Laran Padua, although that is unimportant as my story is not just my own. It represents the harsh reality of an industry that maintains New Orleans’s economy. The service industry is one of our population’s largest employers and there are few if any protections in place for its workers. The service industry as a whole takes advantage of the people that make New Orleans the tourist destination it is. Without the line cooks, bartenders, waitresses, dishwashers and every one in between the New Orleans market for tourism would come to a halt. Yet we go underpaid and under-appreciated. Forced to work long hours in unsanitary environments, with unpredictable schedules and virtually no job security.

I have personally worked for companies here that demand their workers to stand in stagnant water, behind rodent-infested bars, working twelve to fourteen hour shifts with only six hours of off time, before having to be back at work the next day. If that sounds barbaric, it’s because it is. While everyone in the industry is taken advantage of and unprotected, expecting mothers are left the most vulnerable.

Earlier this year I was working at a restaurant called the Dry Dock cafe in Algiers point. This small neighborhood establishment is just one of many unjust employers throughout the city with no regard for the welfare of its employees. I was fortunate enough to become pregnant with my first child. I informed my employer, as a courtesy, that I was expecting. One week later I was terminated without warning or reason. I then proceeded to file for unemployment to supplement the loss of income and the Dry Dock Cafe appealed my claim not once but twice. This just further solidifies their lack of regard for their employees well-being.

Fortunately, after switching industries and cutting my income in half, I am currently employed. I was very lucky, but not all who are put in this position are. We need legislation in place to protect service industry employees, especially expecting mothers. Many service industry moms bring life into this world with no security or stability offered from employers. Service industry employees deserve basic rights. We deserve reasonable schedules, healthy work environments and protection when we are most vulnerable.

Workers’ Correspondence

-By C.D

People like to be welcomed into a restaurant that gives off an air of leisure, where the service is friendly and warm, and the food delicious. My place of employment tries to foster that environment for its customers. However, as an employee at one of New Orleans’ top-rated brunch restaurants, I can attest to a pattern of exploitation all too common in the restaurant industry. Employees are given the option of purchasing one meal per seven to eight hour shift that is paid out of our tips. On many days, workers don’t have time to eat at all because the restaurant often fills up during the first 15 minutes of being open. Many of the bussers and back of house staff work six to seven days a week, scheduled between two work weeks so that there is no chance of receiving overtime.

If someone needs to go to the dentist or take their child to the doctor, they must re- quest time off three weeks in advance in order to be certain that they will receive that day off. Schedules are not posted in a timely fashion, and many employees work five to six months without having regular days off. Although the front of house staff puts up with a lot of frustrating aspects of the job, the back of house receives less visibility and recognition. The kitchen is run by a chef who goes unchecked, intentionally hiring men who have been previously incarcerated only to fire his employees on a whim, yell at them all day and laugh in their faces when they ask for a raise.

All of these things are not uncommon in the hospitality industry in New Orleans. When I speak with other workers about my experience, I am always met with nods of understanding and similar stories.

Workers in New Orleans need the Work Week Ordinance. We are the friendly and warm faces that serve those that come to this city from far and wide. It is our work that provides restaurant owners, hotel owners and the city with its massive profits while most of us get paid way below a living wage. We need to know our schedules in advance in order to live our lives fully, we must be paid fairly, and we must be recognized for more than just our labor. We must have the ability to spend time with our children, access healthcare and strengthen our communities.

Work Week Ordinance Campaign:

NOHWC Fights For Sick Pay and Scheduling Laws

-By Ashlee Pintos

One of the most exciting ongoing struggles that the NOHWA has undertaken is the fight to pass the Work Week Ordinance. It is a simple ordinance that would provide basic labor laws concerning scheduling as well as 12 paid sick days! This ordinance, in various forms, has been passed in several U.S. cities such as San Jose, San Francisco, Emeryville, Seattle, NYC, DC. Just this year, Austin, Texas became the first city in the South to pass paid sick days for workers.

As anyone who has worked in the industry knows, one of the greatest issues that workers face is abusive and inconsistent scheduling. We don’t get any paid sick days, let alone the ability to call off work when we are sick with-out fear of getting fired. Pregnant workers and new mothers have no job security for maternity leave, and are often pushed off of schedules once they are far into their pregnancy. Thousands of us workers throughout the city do not receive our schedules until the night before or the same day that we might have to work, and schedules are different from week-to-week.

This causes major problems with scheduling doctor’s appointments, childcare, and keeps parents from being able to be involved in their child’s education (parent-teacher conferences, school events, etc). Lastly, the lack of sick leave in the industry leaves thousands going to work sick every year. Especially with this past year’s flu epidemic (one of the worst ever), it is incredibly unsafe and unsanitary for hospitality workers to be serving/cooking food and dealing with tourists while they are ill.

Because managers and bosses are often in charge of making schedules, another huge problem in the industry is that they use scheduling as a tool to keep the workers down and to make workers do whatever they want. Currently, if a manager does not like a worker, they can simply schedule the worker on slower days, or change their shifts from nights one week to days the next just to try and get the worker to quit. If worker turns down a manager’s request to work a double, the worker’s schedule the next week might be the manager’s punishment. This is also a tool for sexual harassment where bosses have been known to hold worker’s shifts over their heads if they do not do what the boss wants. Favorites are always clear: the boss’ favorites get the best shifts which only serves to further divide workers.

This Ordinance, when passed, will put scheduling in the worker’s hands: it will no longer be a tool of the bosses to exploit the workers!

This Ordinance will protect the general New Orleans community. So far, the NOHWA has gathered over 3,000 signatures from workers who support the Ordinance. However, we know that broad community support and collective people’s power is the best and only way to put enough pressure on politicians to pass legislation that helps the workers. The NOHWA has begun to give presentations about the Ordinance and reached out to various community members to call for mass support, as it will benefit the entire community. So far, there has been support from various community organizations, churches, over 30 medical doctors, educators, as well as local lawyers including Bill Quigley of the Loyola Law Clinic. When the new city council members take their places this year, the NOHWA and all of the supporters of the Ordinance will take the next step to get it passed throughout all of New Orleans.

A huge portion of money generated from Tourism taxes goes right into the hands of the city’s wealthiest corporations and business owners all with the politician’s approval, without the people knowing about it. For example, hotel taxes were $165 Million in 2015 alone. Local tax on all food and beverages (without voter approval) were $11.2 Million. It has been written into the city charter that these taxes go directly to private corporations. They are a part of an official commission, including an unelected board. Yes, over $140 million every year goes to big business like the Convention and Visitors Bureau ($17 Million), the LA Stadium and Exposition District ($57 Million), the Exhibition Hall Authority ($58 Million), and the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation ($12 Million). In all, there are over 60 entities that receive money generated by tourism taxes. This is money that does not go into the general budget, does not get put towards bettering our communities, healthcare, or education. With all this money floating around, shouldn’t the workers at least have access to healthcare?

It gets worse. A recent report called the Disparity Study stated that only 2% of revenue generated by business in New Orleans goes to Black Businesses--that’s literally pennies on the dollar going to Black New Orleanians. And, the people in charge of these commissions, work hand-in-hand with the city council and the mayor to do this dirty work. For example, the Board members of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation are from the biggest hotel and casino chains, real estate developers, and from other commissions such as the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the LA Restaurant Associations, as well as city council members and future mayor Latoya Cantrell, Stacy Head, Nadine Ramsey and Jason Williams. As you can see, big business and government are working closely together to profit while the workers suffer. Although outrageous, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Decisions made by the state legislature are made in favor of big business too. In 2013, the state legislature denied the city a proposal to increase hotel tax by 1.75% for the general budget. One year later in 2014, the state legislature passed an increased hotel tax (you guessed it: 1.75%!) to be dedicated to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Tourism Marketing Corporation. Police of the French Quarter also got a piece: 0.25%. None of these figures talk about the tax breaks and back door deals that happen without the people’s approval or knowledge.

When big businesses and politicians have millions to play with, why are workers left sick, suffering and dying? There is no excuse for this. This year, the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee met a fellow worker named Laura. A mother, a long time hospitality worker. At age 43, Laura hasn’t had insurance for about 2 years.

Why? She couldn’t afford it. This year, she finally went to the hospital to find that she had a severe heart infection that must have been brewing for 5 months to a year, and what happened? She almost got kicked out of the hospital! By some action on behalf of community members and doctors such as Mark-Alan Dery, she was able to stay. However, Laura’s life is in critical condition, and should she survive, she will likely face medical debt. If not, the debt will fall on her family: 6 children. Laura is not the only one in a situation like this; her case is an example for thousands of workers and their families every year. This is why the NOHWA has decided to confront the Tourism Marketing Commission with our demands.

Oregon Fast Food Workers Stand Up!

-By Dylan Borne

“We are fast food workers. We formed our union because we matter, we work hard, we want respect, and we need a raise,” declares the newly-formed Burgerville Workers Union. Burgerville is a fast-food chain in Oregon, and its workers face the exact same daily struggle as hospitality workers here in New Orleans. Paid an average of $11.36/hr, often without being able to go full-time, the company’s employees live in poverty. They don’t have affordable housing, health- or child-care. On top of that, many have to work stressful and unstable schedules. Most of Burgerville’s workers can’t pay Oregon’s soaring rent. Many even go hungry and have to sneak food from their job to survive. Yet the company brings in $75 million in yearly revenue. Divided up by its 1,545 employees, that’s over $48,000 per worker—much more than they’re getting paid. So, Burgerville’s workers decided to stand up. After a two-year campaign, which included striking and calling for a boycott of the company. In April, their Portland location voted to unionize officially under the interna- tional union, ‘Industrial Workers of the World’ (IWW). Quickly followed up by the Gladstone location’s unionization in May. This is big: the nation’s first formal fast food union in 5 years. And this union has teeth, it’s demanding:

A $5/HR RAISE

· AFFORDABLE AND QUALITY HEALTHCARE

· A SAFE WORKPLACE

· FAIR SCHEDULING WITH AMPLE NOTICE

· PAID FAMILY LEAVE

· CHILDCARE

· TRANSPORTATION STIPENDS

· INDEPENDENCE FOR THEIR ORGANIZATION

In response, the well-salaried management has been brutal and two-faced. To the media, they put on a smile: “we are ready to support the nation’s first unionized fast food store,” a senior VP said. But they’ve been ruthless to the workers. Union members and especially organizers have been fired for ridiculous reasons: one for putting a dollop of soft serve in his shift coffee, another for throwing away a leftover chicken patty. One organizer was even set up by his assistant manager, who offered him a bagel without charging him, and then fired him for “stealing” it. But the workers are ready to fight. Despite all the push-back, it’s been one victory after another. It’s a winning struggle for all of them, young or old, mother, father, student, or grandparent. In a recent statement, the Union proclaimed:

“Our struggle is the struggle of all work-

ers, everywhere fighting for a better world.

No worker is isolated, because we form part

of a working class that together can and will

do anything. Workers have all the power, and

we demonstrated that, and continue to, with

this union victory and our march forward.”

For more info, go to: www.BurgervilleWorkersUnion.org

Who is the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance?

The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee is an organization created by and for hospitality workers. We fights for our long over-due rights using the power of collective struggle. Under the guidance of labor history we know that an organized workforce is how workers win. This city has 88,000 hospitality workers, organized & united we have the power to shut this city down. If we all went on strike tomorrow the money would stop flowing, and our bosses and representatives would have no choice but to adhere to our demands. We are opposed to all forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. We support full rights & protections for our immigrant co workers. We understand our bosses use tactics that weaponize forms of discrimination to further divide workers, we must stand firm against these divisive tactics. The committee respects black, brown, women, and LGBTQ workers and welcomes them to take on leadership in the organization. Only through organizing will we be able to demand a better future for hospitality workers. We fight for better working conditions, both for workers currently in the industry and the children in the community who will inherit the industry.