Organizing For Better Working Conditions: 101
-By Alec Arceneaux
If you work in the Hospitality industry, you’ve probably had to deal with a lot of bullshit from your bosses and managers. You’ve probably also noticed that there’s not much you can do about unfair conditions by yourself. Our bosses are smarter than we like to give them credit for: they know exactly how much they can get away with, and how to trick you into thinking that this is the way things have to be. There’s one thing that scares them, and that’s an organized workforce. You and your coworkers all have the same interests, it’s just a matter of fighting together.
Talk to your coworkers. This is the most important step. Try to get together with your coworkers sometime after work, away from bosses, first individually then later as groups. Find out their specific issues with the job. This is especially important with workers from different races, genders, sexualities, and abilities, as well as different positions in the workplace. Figure out the workers who are most disgruntled and the most willing to take action and unite with them. Find the ones who are mostly complacent and push them to understand how badly they and their coworkers are being exploited. And identify which workers are actively an obstacle to organizing, whether they have management aspirations, they’re loyal to the boss, snitches, or they’re a toxic coworker. These workers need to be kept separate from your organizing movements and not allowed to sway or scare the moderate workers. As you meet with coworkers, be cautious, and keep track of what you find out. Gathering this information is an important first step towards uniting the whole workforce.
Agitate and educate. Once you’ve got a sense for what issues are most pressing for your coworkers, it’s now a matter of convincing them to take action. Ask them how they think something might change. Would they get their demands if they asked the boss politely? What if a couple people asked the boss? What if every employee asked the boss, together? Reassure them that others feel the same way. Remind them that one worker might not be much, but the company can’t function without the whole workforce. Our strength doesn’t come from what’s right or fair, but from the power we have when we stand together for what’s right and fair.
Inoculate. Bosses have certain responses to organizing that they use to bully their employees. Luckily, we know their responses from years of experience. Always look to la- bor history as a reference for labor organiz- ing. There, we see bosses and management have used the same tactics for generations. Luckily for this reason we can predict their movement. It’s important to be proactive in warning your coworkers about these tactics. When we are aware and warned ahead of time, we can be prepared to overcome the divisive tactics our bosses use to keep us divided and begging for crumbs . The boss will maybe try to offer incentives and perks, to prove they “care.” They might give priv- ileges to certain employees, to turn them against others. They might schedule one-on-one meetings, to talk about pay individually or hear employees’ concerns. They might have a big group meeting, where they spread false propaganda about unions and workers’ rights. Remind your coworkers that standing together and not falling for their divisive tactics is the only way for REAL change. Power concedes nothing without a demand.
Make your demands, and stay the course. When you’ve got everybody on board, now is the time for action. Start with small easy demands first, something the boss should be able to say yes to immediately. Get as many employees as you can to make the demand together at the same time. Seeing everybody at once will let your boss know you’re serious. If they concede to your first demand, great! Use that momentum to work up to bigger ones. If they refuse, now you’ve got more evidence for your coworkers that your boss will do anything they can to keep you down.The most important thing is constant communication and solidarity. The more dedicated you and your coworkers are to fighting together, the more you can accomplish.
Interested in meeting with fellow hospitality workers who are also organizing for better working conditions to receive further guid- ance and support? Join The New Orleans Hospitality Workers OrganizingAlliance, we meet weekly.
Reach out to email@example.com or 504-444-9096.
Workplace harassment tip: Did you know that Louisiana is a one-party recording state? This means that only one party to a conversation needs to give con- sent for a conversation to be recorded. So, if you are experiencing wage theft, workplace abuse, or mistreatment, it is completely legal to record the conversations you are having with your supervisor on your phone with-out their consent. This can be useful if you feel that you are being unfairly treated, and would like to have proof of that mistreatment - either for a direct action campaign, a lawsuit, or in order to file a complaint with the company. However, you must be an active participant in the conversation, meaning that you can’t legally record a conversation that other people are having without you.
NOLA McDonald’s Workers Strike Against Sexual Harassment
-By Dylan Borne
On September 18th, McDonald’s workers with Fight For 15 walked out of the job ad part of a national McDonald’s strike for an end to sexual harassment, a $15/hr minimum wage, and the right to a union. Specifically, they demanded comprehensive sexual harassment training for all managers/employees, a safe and effective system for responding to complaints, and the formation of a committee that includes Mc-Donald’s workers, corporate representatives, and representatives of leading national women’s groups to chart a path forward so that nobody who works for McDonald’s has to deal with sexual harassment.
Michael, McDonald’s worker, spoke up about how his manager laughed at him for reporting sexual harassment as a man, and how no one should be dismissed like that.
Tonya, McDonald’s worker: “When I reported my sexual harassment, they did not take me seriously, one of the managers said that I was giving sex appeal... other things happened, so much worse, I reported them and everything, again and again, nothing was done at all. Since workers like me don’t have a union or union rights, McDonald’s, we have no one else to turn to.”
Nicki, McDonald’s worker: “We have to come out of the corners, come out of the closet, and we have to be heard”
Hi, I’m a 19 year old who was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. I have worked in retail the majority of my life. In April of 2018 I joined a job training program for youth called Liberty’s Kitchen. I was paid $25 dollars a day, which is just $3 dollars an hour with no tips. When I was in the program I didn’t have many complaints, I only felt people should be paid for their work. The program itself with the externships is generating profit, but unfortunately only for those who have the power to inflate their pay.
At Liberty’s Kitchen they have a “donation” bucket out which is arranged in a way that makes it look like trainees and employees receive tips, but we do not. Customers often put money in there thinking that we do. I firmly believe front-of-house workers and trainees should receive those would-be tips. I graduated the program with the same mindset of wanting people to be paid for the work they do. I feel generally the program was started with good intentions, but there are many improvements I’d like to see.
This program can be improved in many ways, starting with a living wage. There are other youth job training programs in the city that pay fair wages, so Liberty’s Kitchen can afford that too. I feel when people are being paid $3 dollars an hour at $25 dollars a day that makes them feel comfortable with the idea of getting underpaid. When we’re placed in restaurant externships we are working real jobs, but still only making $3 dollars an hour. I’d like to see trainee make real wages for real work. I’m a youth activist and i fight for the rights of youth workers, and I feel as though being paid fairly for hard work matters. This program is like a full time job, we may be youth workers but many of us have bills to pay.
I see more people graduating the program who aren’t getting better jobs, than those who are. I wanna see people given a full guaranteed job offer when they complete the program, through the programs partners or other supporting restaurants in the community. I would like to see the program give participants more advanced culinary training. Participants should have proof of culinary training, to help them into better paying jobs when they graduate. I would like participants to learn more culinary skills, food safety, dining room serving, and real applicable cooking skills for on the job.
The program should put more time into job placement, writing recommendations for trainees, teaching how to properly pre-pare for interviews, and organizing jobs fairs. For me this looks more like a program that actively prepares participants for jobs in New Orleans restaurants. I would like to see the program teach trainee about our rights as workers, and about workplace organizing against abuse, harassment, wage theft, etc. To help truly prepare us to enter this exploitative industry, and give us the knowledge we need to improve it.
Ya Manager is Not Ya Friend!
-By Ashlee Pintos
Serve the People comes to you live from your fellow co-workers, out here in New Orleans in the struggle to get by, by any means. But we in the Committee are tired of working for tips. We’re tired of struggling to make ends meet—the RTA buses that never come, the rent that’s just too high, and the fact that we, the Hospitality Workers, do all the work and only get crumbs. We gotta get organized and we gotta build solidarity in our workplaces. So firstly, what’s important to know is that Ya Manager is NOT ya friend.
Why do managers exist? Most managers in bars, restaurants, hotels, etc are not the owners of the business but are there to be people of authority. They often get paid more than the workers plus benefits, a lot of the time don’t do all the work that we do, and are in charge of all the things that—let’s be real—the real money makers are too lazy to do themselves (schedules, inventory, etc). As far as we are concerned, the managers are there to maintain and create division in our work spaces which helps them in achieving the end goal: keeping workers silent and shutting down any type of organizing. Lots of these people are just glorified snitches, y’all.
Now, I know, some of y’all might be thinking: “aw, my manager works really hard too!” Or “my manager is so nice, not like other managers.” Let me be clear: beyond the individual people, the entire position of manager is NO FRIEND OR HELP TO THE WORKER.
Whether or not your personal manager is “kind” or “funny” or “doesn’t even make THAT much more than you,” they were bought into this position of power! At the end of the day they can fire you, give you a horrible schedule, and they report to the big bosses and owners whose only interest is the big money—not you, not any of us. They accepted the manager title and all that comes with it, which means that they reinforce the power dynamics that the big bosses want: workers at the very bottom, doing all the work, serving with a smile.
Strategies used by management to control and divide the workforce include: the division of labor, organizational hierarchy, rules and procedures, the use of secrecy and hoarding of knowledge, spreading false gossip about co-workers, blaming you being overworked on other workers who are also overworked (making sure we fight with each other instead of looking up at our bosses for better wages/conditions), and the maintenance of racial and gender divisions and placement in the workforce. Managers rely on the fact that people need a job as a powerful force for motivation. Their interests (which are inherently aligned with business owners) is not to make working conditions better for employees, but in keeping wages low, profits high, and their boots firmly on our necks.Their jobs is to preserve the current dis-balance of power.
Managers are commonly responsible for: Firing us when we leave to have our children, firing us for calling in sick, firing us for voicing complaints about sexual harassment, firing us for being unable to keep a consistent babysitting schedule (due to inconsistent work scheduling), firing us if we can’t come in due to family emergencies, such as: your child being in the hospital, a family member’s death, your partner giving birth, etc. And MANY other unjust firing practices. Are these the actions of someone with the best interests of workers at heart? No. We are human beings, in many other places these actions are considered inhumane and are illegal. Yet our bosses and managers continue to treat us as less than deserving of basic human rights and dignity. The reality is that this is a struggle between two classes, the working class and the owners. Our interests are inherently at odds with each other. Our bosses seek to keep wages low, and profits high. Unfortunately, despite relating to our managers on some levels, they are there to maintain the interests of business owners, which includes keeping us from gaining the wages, benefits, respect, and dignity we deserve.
El decreto de la semana de trabajo:
¡Únase a la lucha para días pagados de enfermedad y leyes de horario!
-Por Marie Torres
Una de los las luchas más emocionantes del Comité de trabajadores de hospitalidad de New Orleans es la lucha para aprobar el decreto de la semana de trabajo. Es un decreto simple que daría derechos laborales básicos de horarios y 12 días pagados de enfermedad. Este decreto, en varias formas, ha sido aprobado en varias ciudades en los EEUU como San Jose, San Francisco, Emeryville, Seattle, NYC, y DC. Este año, Austin, Texas se volvió la primera ciudad en el Sur que aprobó días pagados de enfermedad para las trabajadores. Como todos que trabajan en la industria de hospitalidad saben, uno de los problemas más graves que enfrenta- mos son nuestros horarios abusivos e inconsistentes. No tenemos días pagados de enfermedad, ni la habilidad de llamar a nuestro trabajo para tomar el día libre cuando estamos enfermos sin miedo de ser despedido. Trabajadoras embarazadas y madres nuevas no tienen seguridad de trabajo durante su permiso de maternidad, y a veces son empujadas fuera del horario cuando llegan a las etapas tardes de su embarazo. Miles de nosotras no recibimos nuestros horarios hasta la noche antes o el día de trabajo, y los horarios son diferentes de semana a semana. Esto causa problemas graves cuando uno tiene que planear visitas al doctor, cuidado de niñas, e impide a los padres de estar involucrados en la educación de sus hijxs (conferencias entre padres y maestrxs, eventos de la escuela, etc). Finalmente, la falta de días aprobados para ausencia por enfermedad en la industria deja que miles de personas vayan al trabajo enfermxs. Especialmente debido a la epidemia de gripe de influenza del año pasado (una de las temporadas más graves), es increíblemente inseguro y no sanitario que lxs trabajadores de hospitalidad esten sirviendo y cocinando comida con turistas mientras que esten enfermxs.
Porque los gerentes y jefes normalmente están encargados de los horarios de lxs traajadores, otro problema grave en la industria es que usan los horarios como una herramienta para explotar a lxs trabajadores. Si un gerente no le gusta un trabajador, ellos pueden programar el trabajo del trabajador durante días más lentos, o cambiar su horario de días una semana a noches la próxima semana solo para empujar al trabajador que renuncie. Si un trabajador renuncia la orden de trabajar una doble, el horario del trabajador la próxima semana puede ser- vir como castigo. Esto también sirve como herramienta de acoso sexual, y los jefes han usado el horario del trabajador como castigo si el trabajador no hace lo que el jefe quiere. Lxs favoritxs del jefe siempre son evidentes: lxs favoritxs siempre tienen los mejores horarios, y esto sirve para dividir a lxs trabajadores más.
Este decreto, cuando sea aprobado, pondrá el poder del horario en las manos del trabajador: !Ya no será una herramienta de explotación del jefe!
Este decreto va servir como protección para la comunidad general de New Orleans. Hasta ahora, el NOHWC ha colectado más de 3,000 firmas de lxs trabajadores quienes apoyan al decreto. Sin embargo, sabemos que necesitamos apoyo de la comunidad y el poder colectivo de la gente para poner presión sobre los políticos para aprobar legislación que ayuda a lxs trabajadores. Hasta ahora, tenemos apoyo de varias organizaciones de la co- munidad, iglesias, más de 30 doctores, maestros en la ciudad, y abogados locales como Bill Quigley de la clínica de ley de Loyola.
Unstable workweeks & scheduling = Unstable Homes, Families & Communities
NOHWC Work Week Ordinance Campaign
-By Skye Thomas
This ordinance, in varying forms, has been passed by multiple cities including Seattle, San Francisco, Emeryville, San Jose, Washington D.C., and New York City. The ordinance recognizes that hospitality workers need to know when they are working to properly schedule childcare, doctor’s appointments, other necessary appointments, transportation, school, and if they have a second job. It is in the general interest of the entire city that service workers health be protected and that workers who are ill are not forced to work. It is also in the interest of the entire city that parents have stable employment that is family friendly and enables parents to participate in and provide a stable involved relationship.
The Hospitality Workers Alliance has collected over 3000 signatures from workers and is working to build mass community support. Want to help in this effort? Sign the petition, help get petition signatures from your co workers, friends, and family, arrange a presentation through the HWC for your co workers, community organization, church, etc. Show up in support when city council puts the Work Week Ordinance on the agenda, give a statement in support. But most of all fellow hospitality workers come organize with us!
Specifically, we call for the passage of the following Worker and Community Work Week Ordinance to apply to all places of employment:
•Requirement of all employers to provide a work schedule 14 days in advance.
•Should employers ask an employee to change days worked or alter the schedule that is posted an employee may voluntarily accept or reject the offer without retaliation.
•Should the employee voluntarily accept the schedule change without 14 days’ notice, the employee will be paid a $100 premium for doing so.
•Employers shall not schedule workers without a 12-hour rest period between shifts.
•Employers shall not schedule workers to shift from day to night without the worker’s consent.
•All workers shall receive 12 paid sick days a year.
•Employers shall consider the need for parents to attend meetings with teachers or counselors as in the interest of the entire city and shall not refuse employee’s request or a scheduling change.
•Pregnant workers who an perform their duties shall not be subjected to harassment to leave and shall be guaranteed reemployment at an equal job when able to return to work.
•A commission shall be created to adjudicate claims.
•If found guilty of violating the ordinance, employers shall make employee whole and be fined $1,000 for the first offense, $2,000 for the second, and $5,000 for any subsequent offenses.
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.