We are in the midst of an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. It is no secret that workers, especially in the service industry, will be disproportionately impacted, and that collective action is the greatest tool we have at our disposal to get through this. To that end, we’ve compiled a variety of resources to help workers in New Orleans and Louisiana at large, which can be viewed here.
Additionally, we’re working on setting up unemployment workshops, fighting for a fair fund for hospitality workers, and contributing to mutual aid projects throughout the city.
We are currently experiencing the first wave of disruption that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is bringing to the United States, the South, and our beloved city of New Orleans. As this public health and socioeconomic crisis unfolds, the cracks in our institutions and systems will become apparent and may even fully fracture. When systems fail, it is people who pick up the pieces and reform them. As socialists and working people, we know our power rests in our ability to act collectively. We embrace solidarity over self-interest because it is necessary for survival.
Our capitalist economic system amplifies all the effects of the pandemic. Millions of workers earning low wages and facing ever-increasing rents and childcare costs now have difficult decisions to make. Over the past forty years, politicians on both sides of the aisle have cut funding to public programs and let investors and corporations dictate their policy. State and municipal governments have given private, profit-seeking companies control over vital services, and we are now seeing the disastrous results of that approach.
In the absence of a paid sick leave program, millions of working people face the stressful choice of whether to go to work sick or stay home as advised and risk losing pay or their jobs altogether.
In the absence of a paid family leave program, working parents face enormous difficulty in obtaining childcare when schools close.
In the absence of strong unions, businesses fire employees to offset lost revenue and treat workers as disposable.
In the absence of a national healthcare system, people go into medical debt when they pursue vital treatment or suffer the consequences of not going to the doctor. Healthcare workers face enormous strains without proper support.
There are many solutions for the issues listed above, and we are at a critical turning point for demanding universal programs at the federal level, not compromised half-measures like the House paid sick leave bill written late last week that only covers 20% of workers by exempting all corporations with more than 500 employees.
This month we have already seen how quickly the government can react and unleash spending that it typically says is impossible, most notably with the $1.5 trillion the Federal Reserve is loaning to banks to stabilize financial markets. But we have also seen many states and municipalities enact progressive contingency plans with low barriers to access, acknowledging that when we share our skills and resources, we exponentially increase our impact and reach and prevent further harm.
While New Orleans DSA strongly believes in and supports universal social programs, right now our attention is focused on our city and region.
We’ve watched our city’s infrastructure deteriorate under the strain of decades of corruption and inaction. Recently, in the wake of events like massive drainage system failures and the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, our leaders have asked us to normalize dysfunction and trust a process that doesn’t prioritize our residents’ needs.
We have over 80,000 service industry workers and 56,000 people over the age of 65 in the city, and almost 20% of New Orleanians live in poverty. Four in ten adults in the Greater New Orleans area live with chronic medical conditions associated with significantly increased mortality. Our city faces dire prospects in the event of a widespread COVID-19 outbreak, and the number of new infections is rising higher than in other metro areas in the country. Unless we make demands and work together to pressure the powerful, thousands of us will be broke and broken in the aftermath.
It is time to prioritize the needs of all workers, especially and the most vulnerable among us, as we fight for concrete change and true public health in our city and region– not just physical, but social and economical health.
New Orleans DSA feels that organizing workers to take power into their own hands through all avenues is the only way to improve the material and social conditions of all people. We have already seen multiple mutual aid networks develop to help mitigate the secondary effects of this crisis in this city, and we believe those networks should also take advantage of this moment to focus pressure on those in power. While we are still developing more demands in coordination with other organizations, right now we insist that:
Entergy New Orleans must suspend shut-offs due to late payment in all instances, not just confirmed COVID-19 cases. The local energy monopoly announced that it will suspend shut-offs for customers who are affected by COVID-19 through the next four weeks, but hasn’t explained who qualifies. Entergy should suspend shut-offs indefinitely for all customers since it is clear that disruption will affect everyone, not just the infected. We call on Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Public Service Commission to require all energy suppliers in the state to do the same. Entergy, the parent company for several utilities in the South, has revenues of $11 billion a year.
New Orleans & Company must contribute financial relief from their substantial cash reserves for service industry and hospitality workers, as well as artists, musicians, performers, tour guides, and other culture workers. New Orleans & Company is a private non-profit that receives sales tax revenue generated by hospitality workers to fund expensive marketing campaigns that promote tourism. Our city’s over-reliance on tourism has made this entity very powerful while diverting taxes that could be used for public education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
This relief should be available to all service industry workers, undocumented and documented, and apply to lost wages that are not always accounted for by business owners, including tips and under-the-table payment. City Council has already made a formal request that New Orleans and Co. offer assistance to employees and develop fair rehiring practices for laid off workers, but as we saw from last year’s negotiation for infrastructure funds, constant pressure is necessary to spur action.
The City of New Orleans must take the health and safety of our vulnerable residents into consideration to prevent the spread of the virus. We support the Orleans Public Defenders in calling for the release of all people currently imprisoned for nonviolent offenses and that NOPD issue summons for new nonviolent suspects instead of placing them in Orleans Parish Prison.We also believe the sentences of elderly prisoners should be evaluated to assess them for early release on probation or parole. Since visitors are now banned from entering OPP, prisoners must be provided access to social interaction with their friends and family through phone. Sheriff Gusman must call for Securus, the jail’s communications and banking contractor, to waive all fees and surcharges for the duration of the pandemic. The city must build or find emergency shelters for the unhoused, including food and sanitation facilities necessary to prevent further spread of the virus.
New Orleans DSA is currently contacting other allied organizations to plan concrete actions. We are holding a joint conference call on Tuesday, March 17th at 6:30 p.m. Email email@example.com if you are interested in how to participate in the call.
You can sign up for our mailing list here for updates as we plan our ongoing response campaigns.
If you believe that democratic socialism and worker power is essential to the long-term health and justice in our country and the world, you can join the Democratic Socialists of America here.
While this statement is limited in its focus to our city, our chapter stands in solidarity with all Louisianans and the entire Gulf Coast, and we will look for ways to offer assistance to them as well.
it’s 2020 and we’re ramping up our local campaign for Bernie Sanders. We had thirty people attend our Bernie planning meeting this past Saturday, and on Sunday the 5th, fifteen folks turned out to knock doors in the upper 9th Ward!
Our next Bernie Meeting is set for Sunday, Feb. 9th, 3 to 4:30PM at 2533 Columbus St.
Bernie is polling neck and neck with Biden. He can win, but it’s up to grassroots organizers to make it happen. That’s why New Orleans DSA is running an ambitious campaign and we’ve set goals to:
– Knock thousands of doors – Register hundreds of voters – Hold Bernie 2020 events every week until the primary
Bernie doesn’t have billionaire funders or corporate media on his side, but he has an army of volunteers like us who are organizing all across the U.S. to win Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, democracy in the workplace, racial justice, and a stop to endless wars.
Keep reading to see all of the events we have planned for this month! If you want to get involved but don’t know where to start, fill out this form and an organizer will be get in touch with you.
In February of 2019, DSA signed on to join the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, which is fighting to stop jail expansion and bring justice to our city’s broken criminal punishment system.
Since then, we’ve helped make calls, email our city council members, and show up to demand community resources be spent on social services like improving education, creating good jobs, and fixing our infrastructure — NOT jailing New Orleanians for crimes of poverty.
Yesterday, 12/5 we turned out 10 of our members to a hearing where the City Council deliberated on whether to expand OPP. And our coalition won! City Council unanimously passed a 1,250 person-cap for the city’s jails, soundly rejecting the sheriff’s proposal and moving us towards the Council’s pledge of getting the jail population below 998 by 2021. Councilmember Banks also agreed to create an ordinance that makes the new cap enforceable, and the Council overall supported the notion of ensuring that no ICE detainees are held in Orleans Parish Prison.
In November, art workers at the Marciano Art Foundation museum announced their intention to form a union, so they could have power and democracy on the job, and the ability to bargain with management to improve wages and working conditions. Within days, the Marciano family fired every worker and closed their museum.
But the Marciano Art Foundation workers are not giving up without a fight. They’re running a community pressure campaign around the country demanding the Marciano family reopen their workplace, rehire the workers and recognize their union.
The Marciano family also owns the Guess brand and is known for union-busting, paying poverty wages, and violating workers rights. So on Black Friday, the MAF Union lead a coordinated action around the country to disrupt business as usual at over 50 Guess stores across the U.S.
New Orleans DSA members Michael and Jeff joined AFSCME and UTNO organizers to flyer inside the Riverwalk Mall, passing out information and having conversations with around a hundred different people. DSA will keep following the MAF Union campaign as we do our part to support workers around the country!
We know that Bernie Sanders is the best presidential candidate for workers and our families, so New Orleans DSA is running an ambitious campaign for Bernie 2020! We will be knocking thousands of doors, making hundreds of calls and texts, registering voters, hosting monthly Bernie educational and social events, and canvassing & tabling across the city. There’s plenty of work to do and we’re going to need all hands on deck, so come join us! Our next Bernie campaign meeting is Saturday, Dec. 7th, 2 – 3:30 PM in the common space at Fairgrinds Coffee House (3133 Ponce de Leon).
Our Voting Guide for this year’s November 16th Runoff Election has arrived! It’s live and online to help educate y’all about candidates and issues. Huge shoutout to Municipal Action Committee for their extremely hard work on this!
In October, New Orleans DSA sent members up to Chicago to join the 35,000 teachers and education workers who are on strike for their students. They are members of Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and SEIU Local 73, and their demands include a nurse and social worker in every school, reduced class sizes, and fair pay for support staff.
New Orleans DSA stands in solidarity with all workers in the aftermath of the catastrophic collapse on the corner of Canal and Rampart streets, on the site of a former Civil Rights Movement landmark which was planned to be a Hard Rock Hotel.
We condemn the greed, neglect, and corruption fostered by capitalists who prioritize profits over human life — not just the developers making a hotel for tourists instead of actually affordable housing for workers, not just the notoriously anti-union contractors who endanger and threaten workers, not just the politicians and bureaucrats who accept donations, bribes, and the goodwill of their most powerful friends, not just our local government who thinks that an Apple Store and Cracker Barrel on Canal Street are the upper echelon of what we can achieve — all of these and more. Capitalism encourages the individualist, profit-driven culture that would call this disaster a senseless tragedy but not a crime.
Of more than 110 workers onsite at the time of the disaster, at least three have died, with dozens of workers injured. This tragedy isn’t over, and the bosses still have the upper hand. Here’s how it happened:
Bosses neglected worker safety complaints.
Bosses misclassified workers. This is wage theft. By calling workers “independent contractors,” bosses avoid paying proper overtime, benefits and taxes. But it’s even worse than that — misclassified workers are also robbed of workers compensation for injuries on the job!
Bosses put profits over workers. Unionized electricians protested at the site last month because contractors were flouting the rules, employing “unlicensed and unqualified electricians, against city ordinances.”
Government didn’t protect us. The original developer received special zoning and density exceptions for the project at the same time that he was defrauding the Road Home Program. When he was sentenced to a federal prison, his family got to keep the property and continue the project. By the way, New Orleans’ Department of Safety and Permits is under federal investigation for building inspectors accepting bribes from 2011 to 2019 from “individuals seeking favorable inspection reports.”
Workers pay the price, always. In addition to the construction workers directly impacted by this disaster — physically, emotionally, and financially — the effects are felt throughout the city’s working class. Businesses near the site have been evacuated, putting people out of work indefinitely. Street closures have affected worker commutes by car and transit.
Demand the developer and contractor pay all medical costs and back pay to misclassified workers!
Demand a responsible bidder ordinance requiring all government contracts AND contracts receiving any subsidies or tax breaks to use unionized labor, including subcontractors.
Pay attention. What happens to the property? What happens to the workers? Who do you think should have the power in this situation?
Demand a workers compensation fund for workers at nearby businesses that are currently closed around the site of the collapse.