Issue #4 Return Our stolen Tax Dollars

Convention board meeting disrupted:

workers demand “return our stolen tax dollars!”

-By Alec Arceneaux

It’s never enough for the rich and powerful in this city. The latest theft comes from none other than the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, the (unelected) board that runs the Convention Center. Despite taking nearly a billion dollars in public funding in the past forty years, they want $329.5 million more to build a massive new 1,200-room luxury hotel.

Every year, $140 million goes directly from hotel taxes to various unelected commissions, bypassing the city budget. These commissions are run entirely by restaurant and hotel owners and other uber-wealthy crooks that have made their fortunes off the backs of poor workers for years. It’s no surprise that these commissions have only the pocketbooks of their directors in mind, and not the needs of average New Orleanians.

Rather than simply roll over and allow these criminals to get away with this, the Hospitality Workers Committee is speaking up. At the Convention Center board’s latest open meeting on August 22nd, the NOHWA, along with other concerned community members, disrupted business as usual and demanded justice.

“ Playing with the people’s money, while telling the people there’s not enough to cover basic necessities should be a crime. But unfortunately the crimes of the rich have always been accepted under a corrupt system. If the law won’t hold those in power accountable for this theft, the people will” said Meg Maloney, a cook and member of NOHWA. With the money that they plan to steal from us, they could:

• Double the capacity of child-care centers for working class parents ($7 million)

•Provide a year of housing, healthcare, and job training for every homeless person in the city ($13 million)

•Make health insurance available for all of the city’s uninsured workers ($122 million)

•And STILL have $187.5 million left over to provide the necessities our city has neglected for decades, like increasing minimum wage, fixing the Sewerage & Water Board to prevent flooding, funding public schools, improving public transportation and potholes, etc. etc.

Of course, other newspapers in the city have only been talking about the revenue that this hotel will bring in, never mind the cost, never mind who will actually be receiving that revenue. We won’t be so easily fooled, though. The Hospitality Workers Committee have one simple demand: Return the people’s stolen tax dollars back to the general budget, and use it to SERVE THE PEOPLE.

Workers of San Antonio Fight and Win 8 Paid Sick Days!

-By Dylan Borne

Texan workers fight and win for the sec- ond time this year! On August 16th, after a long and protracted union struggle, the workers of San Antonio pushed an ordinance through their city council that guarantees every worker 64 hours of paid sick leave per year. That’s a total of eight 8-hour paid sick days off. This comes in the wake of a similar victory in Austin in February, which passed its own sick leave ordinance.

The sticking point is that corpo-rate-backed politicians and bureaucrats are already challenging both ordinances. While the laws went through the two city governments, members of the Texas State legislature want them repealed, and the Attorney General is filing a lawsuit in the courts to tear down the ordinance. The Attorney General claims that the ordi- nance “violates minimum wage laws” by paying workers for time they didn’t work. Essentially, he’s taking laws that were designed to protect workers and turning them against them.

The hypocrisy of these politicians is blaring. Whenever city governments are funding more cops or prisons, state “rep-resentatives” completely support letting local racist politicians make all the decisions. But when it’s a question of workers rights, all of a sudden they want the state government to step in and overrule local ordinances.

But Texan workers know how to fight back. In San Antonio, they have 70,000city-verified signatures in support of the ordinance.

When the workers are organized and militant, their voices are heard. The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance stands in full solidarity with the workers of Austin and San Antonio in their struggle.

Workers Correspondence

-By S.T

When I started my job at a mid-city crawfish and catering restaurant I was making 8.25 an hour, I quickly dedicated myself to helping run their kitchen, working six days a week as their main grill cook. My co workers and I went above and beyond working away our days in the over one hundred degree kitchen. My bosses constantly told me I’d get a raise soon, “you’re management material!” they’d say. Of course they were telling everyone that, they had each individual person working for a raise they’d never get. “Just one more week and you’ll get a raise!” They’d say. A few weeks later our wages were cut to 6.25 an hour.

They tried to excuse the cutting of our wages, saying tips would bring us to a decent wage, but we were already below poverty wages before. My boss didn’t care if we could feed and house ourselves, they just cared about increasing their own profits. My coworkers and I deserved better treatment. All hospitality workers in this city need better treatment and compensation for their labor. If my co workers and I had walked out the day they lowered our pay, we would’ve been able to demand our 8.25 hour back plus more.

Instead of addressing the lowered pay as a collective, like I had suggested, some of my co workers decided to approach our bosses on an individual basis to ask for higher pay, for this they were fired. To our bosses we as individuals are disposable, but as a collective we have bargaining power. Without us workers there couldn’t be ANY profits. We could’ve prevented my co workers from losing their jobs. If we’d all walked off the job together and shut them down, the owners would’ve been forced to meet our very reasonable demand for decent pay.

Our bosses tell us we should only ask for raises on a individual basis. They tell us we shouldn’t worry about our co workers and what they’re making. This weakens the collective bargaining power that we workers are capable of wielding. When wages get cut everyone suffers. I hope that next time I’m in this position my coworkers and I can work to build solidarity and work together in our collective struggle for better wages and treatment.

New Orleans Department of Public Works Employees Go on Strike

-By Charlotte Dillon

“Believe me, we love our job. We wouldn’t be out here doing it if we didn’t, but we want to get paid just like you would pay anyone else. We can go anywhere else and get paid more. We need our money,” Kennan Mitchell, a Department of Public Works employee for the City of New Orleans, told WDSU news. Approximately 15 of the 20 DPW employees went on strike on August 13th. DPW workers are demanding an increase in staffing, safety training, and better pay.

With only 20 DPW employees, they do not have the manpower to clean all the catch basins that alleviate flooding or repair all the potholes, major problems that are evident in our city. Workers also say they lack the appropriate equipment and training to keep up with the city’s maintenance needs.

In order to work for the DPW, workers are required to live in the city of New Orleans. However, a 2017 study determined that renters in New Orleans need to make at least $18 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Workers claim that the best paid bring home $14 an hour with some workers earning as low as $10 an hour. These wages are too low for DPW workers to afford to live in the city they work in. In addition, workers claim that the city contracts outside workers to clean the catch basins and pays them $30 per hour, more than double that DPW workers make.

Workers picketed in front of City Hall, but got no response from Mayor LaToya Cantrell. The Mayors’ office claimed that the workers have stopped striking, and returned to work.

Strike or no strike, the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance stands in solidarity with DPW workers in their fight for a better wage and a safer work environment. Let’s hold our city officials accountable!

Work Week Ordinance Campaign:

Join the fight for paid sick leave and scheduling laws!

-By Marie Torres

One of the most exciting ongoing struggles that the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance has undertaken in 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 are abusive and inconsistent scheduling. We don’t get any paid sick days, let alone the ability to call off work when we are sick without 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 they 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 also is a tool for sexual harassment where bosses have been known to hold worker’s shift’s over their heads if they do not do what the boss wants. Favorites are always clear: the bosses’ 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 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 collec- tive peoples’ power is the best and only way to put enough pressure on politicians to pass legislation that helps the workers. So far, there has been support from various community organizations, churches, over 30 medical doctors, educators in the city, as well as local lawyers including Bill Quigley of the Loyola Law Clinic.

Thousands of Amazon Workers Strike in 5 Countries

“After two months, I felt I couldn’t work there and maintain a healthy state of mind,” said Seth King, an Amazon worker in Virginia, talking about Amazon’s painful working conditions.

And he’s not alone. Some employees have passed out from summer dehydration in windowless ware-houses. Others live paycheck to paycheck, barely surviving off of food stamps. The better-paid ones find themselves on ten hour shifts with timed bathroom breaks and “mandatory over-time,” leaving them little time for their kids or their own health.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, is the richest man in modern history. He makes $107 million per day, enough to end homelessness in several cities with plenty left over to give his workers healthcare and a raise.

What’s more? The 2018 Prime Day sale was estimated to bring in another $3.4 billion for the company—and in 2017, Amazon didn’t pay a nickel in US income taxes.

So the workers decided to make Amazon pay. On the Prime Day sale, thousands of workers in Poland, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France walked off the job on Prime Day to slash the company’s bottom line. They demanded higher wages, healthcare benefits, overtime benefits, and an end to the abusive scheduling practices that either cut your hours too low or work you to death.

It’s important for all workers to understand that we live in a globally connected economy, and corporations move from country to country to force workers to compete for their jobs. They pit you against your neighbor, making you accept lower pay to justify paying others even less. But when workers in one country, or five, say that they won’t stand for low pay and mistreatment, it makes it that much harder for the company to drive down everyone’s wages.

So, just like a rising tide lifts all boats, a workers’ victory anywhere in the world

is a workers’ victory everywhere in the world.

Amazon workers, the Hospitality Workers Alliance stands with you and your demands!

Who are we? We are workers!

The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance 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.

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 discrimination 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. Join us! Together we will win.