Issue #7 The Importance of Organizing



-By Ashlee Pintos

All working class people, throughout the world, are inherently connected to each other. When ANY group of workers, by any means, or in any corner of the world, take action—we have to see it as an ad-vancement for our team! As of November 27th, Marriott Hotel Workers of Boston (UNITE HERE local 26) ended their 46-day strike. This major win for workers made Boston history as the longest and largest hotel worker strike ever! As a result of these workers’ courage and solidarity, they achieved a contract that is a huge step forward for Boston workers as well as an inspiration for workers everywhere. Marriott Hotels is one of the largest hotel companies in the world, but these workers were up to the challenge. Despite the brutal Boston cold, workers walked off the job in early October and held their ground until their demands were met. Their main slogan was, “one job should be enough!” which is something that workers everywhere, especially here in New Orleans, can relate to. Their organizing efforts reached the broader Boston community: supporters donated funds for vulnerable striking workers to pay their rents and utilities. The workers’ power was so strong that they even influenced city council to pass a resolution calling for all city workers to not patronize hotels while workers were striking. While thousands of Marriott Workers in Hawaii and San Francisco are still striking, many details of the Boston contract are still yet to be released to the public. According to UNITE HERE local 26, the contract definitely secures jobs protections as well as wage and benefit packages. It is truly incredible what workers can achieve when we organize! WHEN WE FIGHT, WE WIN!

La Importancia de la Solidaridad y Organización en el Lugar de Trabajo

-Por Jade Dimond

Ya sabemos que el trabajo de la industria de hospitalidad es exigente, agotador y, sobre todo, un espectáculo de mierda. Ya ha sido clavado en nuestras mentes que el poco dinero que ganamos es lo que merecemos. Ha sido clavado en nuestras mentes que el acoso sexual y abuso de todas formas es normal, es “lo que es.” Ha sido clavado en nuestras mentes que el acoso y abuso racista también es “la forma de la industria.” Eso no tiene que ser el caso, no tiene que ser parte de la in- dustria. Es imperativo crear solidaridad con nuestrxs compañerxs del trabajo. Creando esta solidaridad produce un espacio en que nos cuidamos a nosotrxs mismxs cuando pasen instancias de acoso o abuso. ¿Cómo se crea solidaridad en el lugar del trabajo? Al empezar: hable con lxs compañerxs del trabajo, pregúnteles cómo están pasando. Escúcheles y comparta las experiencias entre ustedes y con los demás. Construya una base fuerte de amistades y confianza. Sabemos que los gerentes hacen lo máximo para mantenernos dividi- dos. Tenemos que quebrar esa jerarquía de mando y defendernos entre nosotrxs cuando intentan dividirnos. Legalmente, usted tiene el derecho de documentar y grabar una conversación sin el consentimiento de los participantes si usted mismx está participando en la conversación. Después de su turno, salga con sus compañerxs para discutir los problemas del trabajo. Es muy importante que lo hagas fuera del trabajo para que lxs gerentes y lxs jefes no les puedan escuchar ni intervenir. Ellxs van a tratar de cambiar su mente, o la perspectivas de sus com- pañeras sobre la realidad del lugar de trabajo. Saben que unidxs podemos negociar, dividxs rogamos: ellxs usarán sus poderes para mantenernos por abajo. Recordamos que el poder viene de la gente, nosotrxs mantenemos estas empresas. Sin nosotrxs ellxs no tienen nada. Cuando han construido y encontrado los puntos comunes y respeto entre ustedes, lxs trabajadorxs, van a ver cómo los gerentes se van a dar cuenta, y cómo van a intentar dividir a lxs trabajadorxs. Es importante mantener los ojos abiertos y entender las tácticas de control que ellos usan, no dejen que tomen la delantera. Recuerda que su gerente no es su amigx. Ellxs son lxs jefes, es su trabajo de mantenernos abajo, divididos y pensando que somos reemplazables, que sólo merecemos el respeto y tratamiento que ellxs determinan. Así no es, no somos esclavos, somos seres humanos, merecemos respeto igual a los demás, independientemente de la posición en la que estamos.

Ya Manager is Not Ya Friend Part 2: Don’t Date Ya Boss

- By Ratskink

I quit my job at a Bywater cafe after a disturbing chain of events that reinforced the statement “Ya manager is NOT ya friend.” I was working FOH at a queer cafe, and it was the first time that I wasn’t working with mostly straight people. I quickly got sucked into the scene, we all partied together and the lines between worker and boss were blurred. Due to these blurred lines, I started dating my boss! Things were cool for a while until I started recognizing how that power dynamic was being abused in our intimate relationship and in the larger functioning of the restaurant. Often people say, “My manager’s different, they work so damn hard and don’t even get paid more than me!” The problem is that it’s their job is to keep us in line, to make sure the business is making maximum profit. That includes keeping workers from uniting and organizing for higher wages and the benefits that we deserve. My boss often claimed herself as a well-intentioned boss who supports workers’ efforts to gain rights in this city, yet when a coworker and I tried to organize to get higher pay for FOH I was told that we shouldn’t be going behind her back and that she could fire us at any time.

I was forced out of my workplace because I felt threatened and uncomfortable at my job. This is not just about one shitty boss, it’s about our right to organize in the workplace and managers consis- tently getting in the way of that right. Due to blurred lines present in the work environment, I was pushed out of my workplace. This led to my wages getting fucked with, my time being wasted and me not being appreciated or valued because someone higher up than me actively didn’t want me there. This brings us back to a vital part of organizing, YA MANAGER IS NOT YA FRIEND. We workers must unite and organize away from those in power so we can demand what we deserve. Nothing is an isolated incident. This is not one bad boss, this is the power dynamic between bosses, managers and workers. Stay in unity with your coworkers, build solidarity, organize and always remember YA MANAGER IS NOT YA FRIEND!

“Third Wave Coffee” in New Orleans is a Myth

- By MSS

As dozens of cafes across the city proclaim to embody “third wave” coffee practices it is worthwhile to take a look at how much these businesses practice what they preach. By definition, a “third wave” shop or roaster would recognize the craft and labor of coffee growers, roasters, and baristas by compensating them for the extensive knowledge and skill that they pour into their products, be it a coffee plant, bag of perfectly roasted beans or an immaculately prepared latte.

I’m here to tell you that in New Orleans, we have hundreds of talented baristas who are being perpetually mistreated by shop owners and managers.

Racism shows up in our coffee shops in the form of keeping front and back of house segregated, racist hiring practices and lower wages for Black and Brown workers. Sexism is rampant in the form of bosses upholding gender wage gaps, sexist promotion policies, discrimination against mothers during & after their pregnancies and allowing and often perpetrating sexual harassment & verbal abuse.

Wages can be as low as the server’s wage of $2.13/hr regardless of whether your tips bring you back to minimum wage consistently. Bosses get away with this by claiming that baristas will make $10/hr in tips but they cannot guarantee that wage during slow season, leaving many baristas struggling to make ends meet from one busy season to the next. Scheduling is another area where cafes barely meet a reasonable standard: baristas could be expected to work 10+ hours in a day with no breaks or staff meals. Alternatively, shifts could be as short as five hours, making it impossible to work full time and forcing us to hold several jobs just to stay afloat. There is also the dreaded ‘clopening’ shift when workers are expected to stay late to close and then return the very next morning to open, often meaning we get less than 5 hours of sleep between shifts.

With no sick pay or sick leave it’s not uncommon to find a sneezing and coughing baristas behind the espresso machine, exhausted and unwell. I have yet to encounter a coffee shop in New Orleans that offers health care for workers, so sick baristas stay sick or get worse with no chance of affording medical care on such low wages.

These problems exist in many of the city’s so called ‘best’ coffee shops, from big name chains to the quaint mom-and-pop shop on the corner. Baristas make your morning go smoothly, we listen to our customers’ problems with empathy and patience, and we keep a smile on our faces despite the difficulties that we face in the workplace. We work hard to keep New Orleanians happy and caffeinated. It’s time we workers organize to improve our conditions! We want living wages, safe conditions and workplaces free from harassment of all kinds!


- By Ashlee Pintos

In the HWA, we advocate for workplaces free of racism. When we say this, we know that this doesn’t just mean in individual work sites. We cannot only talk about fighting racism using a workplace-by-workplace strategy, and it’s not good enough to just talk about the abolition of racism in the hospitality industry (although that is a task in itself). What we must do is first acknowledge that racism in ANY workplace, school or community space needs to be abolished. We have to do this because racism does not only affect us in these spaces, it also affects our access to them. We acknowledge that racism is institutional: the ways it affects our access to jobs, schools and relationships/interactions is at the end of the day due to a white supremacist system. We gotta challenge that system and we gotta fight it with solidarity amongst ALL workers.

While what you may hear on the news is that unemployment is down, what we hear and know to be true is that many are still without jobs! Many more have jobs that are not full time (how many do we know who have multiple jobs just to make ends meet), or don’t pay nearly enough—that’s not even talking about “benefits” which we in the HWA consider to be rights. And what we also know from talking to workers at bus stops and through our lived experiences is that Black and Latinx Workers, especially those who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes, remain underemployed and underpaid—especially those who are undocumented.

While we must educate, agitate and organize WITHIN our workplaces against racism, we also have to acknowledge that unemployed workers are equally in the struggle with us! UNEMPLOYED WORKERS ARE STILL WORKERS! The black male unemployment rate is still over 40% in this city that also has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Add in the fact that rising rent prices (while wages are low as ever) have predominantly black and brown workers getting pushed out to further limits--the quest to find a job that pays the bills has become impossible for some. All these issues are connected!

If you’re reading this and you’re employed and you’re thinking “I’m good! I got a job!” I will ask you: Why are the wages so low?! Where’s that raise at?! Where’s your job security?! What about when your boss is making you do the work that should be for multiple people because he won’t hire someone else?! Unemployment rates keep wages down and allow bosses to further exploit us because, as they say, “there’s always someone else who would take this job.”

None of these issues can be blamed on our fellow workers who need jobs—we ALL need good paying jobs; we ALL need to put food on the table and have roofs over our head. And in a $7.5 Billion industry, there’s more than enough to go around! How do we fight back? We organize and we build in community so that we have real peoples’ power to enact real peoples change.

Why You Need a Union

- By Dylan Borne

We workers know that when our boss cuts our hours, sexually harasses us, abuses us or even just talks down to us if all we individually complain then we could lose our job.

But if a whole group of us workers complain together (one band one sound) then it’s a whole different story. We could demand what we deserve. Why? Because bosses can still make money after firing one angry worker, but they’ll have to empty their pockets if they want to fire all of us workers. Without our labor the restaurant could not run; without us workers there are not profits to be made.

That’s the power of labor unions. A labor union is a group of workers in one workplace coming together to fight for better pay, working conditions, benefits etc. as one powerful voice instead of many weak voices. To get recognized as a union legally, workers have to file for a union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and get the majority of their coworkers on board.

Unionized workers have real negotiating power, and they’ve won big. Some examples:

• Middle-class standards of living: After struggling for years with casino owners in Las Vegas—threatening walkouts, even holding a 6.5-year long strike in the 90s—tens of thousands of bartenders, housekeepers, and other hospitality workers with the Culinary Workers Union have won an average wage of $23/hr, including premium healthcare, pensions, a retirement plan, and $20,000 down-payment assistance for home-buyers!

• Equal Pay for Women: A 2017 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that women in unionized workplaces make on average 94 cents to the man’s dollar (the national average is 83 cents, and far lower for Black and Latinx women). This means that, while there’s still work to be done to make things right, women get paid almost the same as men in many unions.

• Job Security: Unionized workers are across-the-board more likely to have job security. Taking off for sick days, family leave and vacation time with pay and then going right back to work is much more attainable with a union. About 9 in 10 unionized workers have paid sick days and vacation days. Those of us without a union are often penalized for taking that time off, much less getting paid for it.

Bosses are nothing without workers, and that gives us power. Unions and their accomplishments are living proof of this. This city’s hotel giants and restaurant owners hate unions because they threaten 5-story mansions and luxury vacations of the ultra-rich. Meanwhile workers don’t have basic necessities such as healthcare, sick leave, maternity leave, childcare or living wages.

We recognize that going through the legal process of getting unionized can be dangerous especially in a city such as New Orleans. We encourage workers to organize in any way they feel safe. A good start would be meeting with coworkers after work and forming a workplace committee to discuss the changes you would like to see. We in the Alliance encourage you to have these meetings without the knowledge of managers, bosses or fellow workers who would possibly report back to managers or bosses (rats).

Servers’ Side-work and Training are Unpaid Labor

- By Dylan Borne

Opening and closing, answering the phone, rolling silverware, cutting lemons, washing dishes—every week all of this adds up to about 5-10 hours of unpaid labor for tipped workers. Sure, the work might have something to do with the front-of-house, but when customers write down a tip on their receipt, they’re asking themselves “how friendly was my server?” or “does this person really deserve 20% for refilling a drink?” They are not thinking about all the side work you’ve done that day, the labor of opening and closing the restaurant, polishing silver, making drinks, cleaning bathrooms, restocking, taking out the trash and all the other unpaid labor that tip workers do to keep the establishment running.

Nine times out of ten, customers don’t take into account how the windowsills got cleaned or who’ll be mopping the floors at 2 a.m. The hourly wage of many tipped workers is $2.13. Bosses pay this claiming tips will bring us up to minimum wage, yet any time that we are not actively serving customers we are not receiving tips. That often leaves us doing work for under minimum wage.

Training in the hospitality industry is often exploitative. In many other industries employees are paid additional wages to train incoming employees. While there is no doubt workers deserve thorough and comprehensive job training, it’s often co-workers who end up training each other for no additional pay. It’s extra work, extra responsibility, and takes you away from the customers whose tips you rely on to pay your bills.

Your boss hires you because they need your labor, so they should pay you for it in full. Workers should be getting a living hourly wage, $15 an hour AT LEAST, without having to rely on the practice of tipping. Workers should be getting paid additional wages for using their ex- pertise and knowledge to train new hires. The city’s economy depends on hospitality workers and our labor—we deserve more and we can demand it if we unite and organize as workers in our industry!

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 coworkers. 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.