By Gamoni Fallings
Photos by Gamoni Fallings
“Up up with the workers. Yeah, yeah! Down with the bosses. Boo-hoo!” was one of the slogans chanted by residents who participated in the International Working Women’s Day march on Saturday, March 16. Women workers and their supporters gathered together in solidarity, under the Hospitality Alliance and the People’s Assembly who jointly came together to bring awareness to injustices in the workplace and to demand for better worker’s rights.
The International Working Women’s Day call-to-action took to the streets of downtown New Orleans to demand the redirecting of some $180 million in tourism taxes, that is being directed to the tourism commission board and the convention center board, instead of to public services that can support the community and wage workers.
Before the march began the group gathered at Congo Square, where they passed out posters and signs that read: “Raise the wages. Lower the rents” and “Women’s rights affect all.” They group sold t-shirts, discussed the issues at hand, and prepared chants and slogans for the march.
“We at the People’s Assembly know that when we uplift hospitality workers in New Orleans, we uplift all workers in New Orleans,” said Antranette Scott of the People’s Assembly, who helped organize the march. Scott rallied residents and hospitality workers in support of the march. She said that hospitality workers deserve better treatment as the bedrock of the city’s revenues.
“Billions of dollars flow through the city of New Orleans on the backs of hospitality workers daily and they are not being given their rights as workers,” Scott said.
Valerie Jefferson, who serves as the president for the Regional Transit Authority operations’ union, participated in the march and spoke on the mistreatment that workers are faced with daily. “I came to join my sisters in the fight for better service, security, childcare, and better wages,” Jefferson said. Like many others, Jefferson joined the march to fight in solidarity for women workers in service industries across the city.
Organizers for the International Working Women’s March defined solidarity as “injecting one’s self into the struggle,” and declared that everyone is intricately connected to a hospitality worker and should work together to fight for the rights of hospitality workers. They argued that if it was not for service and hospitality workers, tourism revenues in the city of New Orleans would be dramatically impacted. They outlined simple ways in which tourism tax dollars could serve hospitality and service workers and their families.
“The schools where kids are failing, those are the kids in most cases of hospitality workers, making below minimum wage and having to work 2 and 3 jobs, not able to fully be invested in their child’s education,” said Armtrice Cowart of Erase the Board Coalition, a group of parents, teachers, and community members who are fighting the issue of “taxation without representation” and the privatizing of public schools. Cowart marched in solidarity with the group to underscore the plight of wage workers such as unfair scheduling and low wages, so that they can focus more on their children’s education rather than trying the find affordable housing and having to work multiple jobs to survive the cost of living in the city.
Representatives from other local movements marched with the group. Take ‘Em Down Nola provided legal observers for the march, and spoke on behalf of the organization for International Working Women who are hospitality workers affected by how tourism taxes are directed.
“We are out here clearing a pathway for your seat at the table,” Scott said.