Dealing with tons of trash isn’t out of the ordinary for the City of New Orleans. By the end of Carnival season, city clean-up crews and paid volunteers collect about 900 tons of garbage on average each year. Onlookers have called the efforts “mesmerizing” to watch. More than a century of Mardi Gras celebrations have refined the city’s approach to bulk garbage collection down to a science. A “parade” of sanitation workers, tractors, trucks, and street sweepers mobilize to collect the trash and clean the city after Fat Tuesday.Continue reading
Union Victory For NOLA City Workers As Council Ratifies $15 Minimum Wage
On Oct. 7, the New Orleans City Council ratified a $15-an-hour minimum wage for city workers, effective in January. This will be $3.81 more than the paltry $11.19 minimum currently in place.
Because of sky-rocketing inflation, $15 dollars doesn’t go as far as it did even a few months ago. Nevertheless, the raise is a major victory for the working-class movement here, and will be welcomed by city workers struggling to make ends meet.
As reported in Struggle-La Lucha back in July, the council was forced to move forward when the firefighters’ union and allies marched into the chambers on July 1, right in the middle of a session. When put on the spot, the council members voted unanimously that they would find the money for a raise. Now it’s official.Continue reading
After Hurricane Ida, Mutual Aid Provides Safety And Survival
In the aftermath of disasters, those most in need are also who the state often leaves behind. Into this vacuum, communities come together for mutual aid. While charity rarely challenges the root causes behind disasters, and often divides recipients into worthy and unworthy, mutual aid comes from a principle of solidarity. As Dean Spade has written, “First, we need to organize to help people survive the devastating conditions unfolding every day. Second, we need to mobilize hundreds of millions of people for resistance so we can tackle the underlying causes of these crises.”
In New Orleans, the entire city was without electricity for nearly a week (and tens of thousands still have not had their power turned back on).Continue reading
Report From New Orleans: Government Does Nothing For The Poor
Gavrielle Gemma, union and political organizer since the 1970s and now working with the New Orleans-based Workers Voice Socialist Movement, called Workers World to report on the situation there, post-Hurricane Ida. Gemma is now living in a modest single-family home in the Florida neighborhood of New Orleans, part of the Upper Ninth Ward.
“It’s bad,” she said. “Only poor folk stayed once the mayor and governor advised that people evacuate. That means the people left had no choice, no place to go, no money to pay for hotels or motels — assuming they could find a room. If they had made the evacuation mandatory, then the government would be responsible for the welfare of the people who left. But they’re doing nothing.”Continue reading
Common Ground Collective Teaches Us About Surviving Crisis Together
It started in Malik Rahim’s kitchen, as the waters from the broken levees continued to flow through New Orleans’ lower 9th Ward. A small group of activists from the city and Austin, Texas, including former Black Panthers, began scratching down notes and trying to figure out exactly what they could do to provide support to the neighborhoods obliterated by Hurricane Katrina.
This was in 2005, just days after the storm had battered the city and demolished the levees, overwhelming the surrounding blocks with a toxic water sludge.Continue reading
Vibrant Community Of Resistance Behind New Orleans’ Historic Protests
New Orleans has recently seen some of the largest protests in the city’s modern history — with thousands of people taking to the streets daily to demand systemic change, including defunding police and money for housing, healthcare and jobs. These protests are the visible manifestation of grassroots organizing that has been going for decades and did not stop with COVID-19.
This video highlights just a few of the many organizations that have built and organized for this moment — even as the city was under quarantine — culminating not only in mass protests, but also direct action that seized an empty home for housing homeless community members.
For years, the New Orleans Peoples’ Assembly has been working to “flip the budget,” to defund police and reallocate this money towards essential needs and rights.Continue reading
Black New Orleans Waste Workers Build Power Against A Crisis
Sanitation workers in New Orleans have been out on strike for over a month now. On May 5, a group of sanitation workers, also known as “hoppers” (because they hop on and off the trucks to empty trash cans), walked off the job after frustrations around low pay and lack of safety equipment boiled over. They have held firm to their demands and to their brothers on the strike lines for over a month now. “All we’re trying to do is to get what we’re asking for, and then get back to work. We just want fair treatment,” Jonathan Edward, who’s been a hopper for over a decade, said. They are not alone—workers around the country have taken bold action in response to the COVID-19 crisis, winning hazard pay, personal protective equipment, and even unions—all in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis.Continue reading
NOLA Garbage Workers Form Union To Fightback
“We are digging in for a long fight,” says New Orleans striking sanitation worker Jonathan Edwards late on Thursday night about being fired in early May by People Ready, a contractor of New Orleans’ Metro Services.
Nearly a month ago, People Ready fired Edwards and 13 other coworkers who went on strike.
Forced to work in one of the world’s worst hotbeds of COVID, garbage pickers like Edwards, employed through the temp firm People Ready and contracted by Metro Services, were only paid $10.25 an hour without benefits.
On May 6th, workers went on strike demanding $15 an hour, hazard pay, protective equipment, and health insurance. However, the workers were fired two days later on May 8th.
Instead of re-hiring them, Metro Services replaced them with prison labor.Continue reading
Charter Schools And Race In New Orleans
Thursday night, New Orleans public schools as we knew them ended. With a 5-2 vote by the Orleans Parish School Board, the last remaining public high school in New Orleans became its latest charter school. In a room filled to capacity, replete with security, protesters, placards, chants, and shouts of dissatisfaction, McDonogh 35 Senior High School’s future was turned over to charter school group InspireNOLA. Many were outraged, some were left in tears, but it changed nothing. With the 5-2 decision, New Orleans became the first city in the United States to turn its entire school system over to an all-charter system.Continue reading
Medical Students March Through New Orleans For Universal Healthcare
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Medical students from across the country gathered in New Orleans, Saturday, walking the streets chanting, advocating for a single-payer system. It’s the seventh annual march for the group– Students for a National Health Program. A sea of white flowed towards City Hall, demanding healthcare for everyone. “We’re here under the idea people deserve equal access to healthcare. People are going bankrupt, people are dying because they don’t have access to the basic medical care needs they have,” said medical student Kale Flory from Missouri. More than 100 medical students from across the country marched in New Orleans, vying for a single payer healthcare system. “It would mean for everybody who lives in the United States, they would have comprehensive healthcare for all of their basic needs,” Chicago medical student Cyrus Alavi said.Continue reading
New Orleans Is Proving That Ending The Bail System Works
By Aviva Shen for RSN – The U.S. is just one of two nations in the world with a money bail system (the other is the Philippines). The system means that people are held in jail while they wait for trial, unless they can afford to pay to go free. Defendants who can’t pay their way out of jail often lose their jobs, homes, children, and sometimes even their lives. Courts across the country are starting to face legal and legislative challenges to their bail systems. And New Orleans has become a key battleground, as lawmakers try to shake its legacy as “the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the world.” The bail bonds industry has argued that financial collateral is the only effective way to ensure defendants return to court for their trial. Starting in the spring, the Orleans Parish criminal district court decided to test this theory with a pilot program that came close to approximating what it would be like if the court eliminated bail altogether. It used a risk assessment tool to identify who was most likely to return to court without incident—and then it released them without making them pay. The result? People released in the pilot returned to court at roughly the same rate as defendants in other commissioners’ courtrooms, according to a new report by the civilian court monitoring group Court Watch Nola. The rearrest rate was also comparable, although somewhat higher, at 4.5% rather than 2.9%. In all, 9 people out of 201 people in the program were arrested again after they were released without bail. The findings help debunk warnings by opponents that replacing money bail will release dangerous criminals into the streets and allow fugitives to flee from justice.Continue reading
Confederate Statues Down, But Structural Racism Still Stands Tall
By Ashana Bigard for The Progressive – Many New Orleanians celebrated at the removal of confederate monuments around the city in recent weeks. But on the same day that Robert E. Lee’s bronzed image came down from Lee Circle, two black boys (like hundreds of boys throughout the city and state of Louisiana) were not allowed to graduate for arbitrary, punitive, and potentially illegal reasons. The monuments may be gone, but structural racism continues to create barriers for students of color in New Orleans schools. Take the cases of Rahsaan Ison and Rashaad Brown, both enrolled at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. They had requested a tutor in Spanish, and one was provided to them under state and federal law protecting students with disabilities. But the tutor turned out to be so unprofessional that their school claimed he had cheated on a test by answering questions for them, and refused to accept any of their work, making it impossible for them to achieve their graduation requirements. I acted as a student advocate for the boys, and I asked for an accommodation on the 504 plan so they could graduate with the rest of the class.Continue reading
Transcript Of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s Address On Confederate Monuments
By Derek Cosson for The Pulse – Just hours before workers removed a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee — the fourth Confederate monument to be dismantled in New Orleans in recent weeks — Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a special address at historic Gallier Hall. Here’s a full transcript of Landrieu’s remarks: Thank you for coming. The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more. You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.Continue reading
New Orleans’ Ninth Ward Fights Freeway Through Historic Black Neighborhood
By Michael Stein for Truthout – There were about 200 Ninth Ward community members in the Saint Mary of the Angels church that night to see what the Department of Transportation had planned for their home. This situation was unfortunately familiar for them. Ninth Ward residents continuously contend with infrastructure projects that disregard their well-being and ignore their input. It’s these polices that isolated the Lower Ninth Ward from the rest of the city, robbed it of public resources and caused it to suffer the worst devastation during Hurricane Katrina. There was national recognition after Katrina that much of the storm’s destruction was human-madeContinue reading
Ten Years On: Katrina, Militarisation & Climate Change
By Nick Buxton and Ben Hayes in Open Democracy – But the structural inequality and institutional racism that underpinned the Bush administration’s response is still there, a fact that President Obama noted on his visit to New Orleans this week. Moreover, the already bloated military and security complex that reflected these power relations has expanded enormously since Katrina – and is now using the spectre of climate change to grab yet more public resources. Two years after Katrina, in 2007, the Pentagon released its first major report on climate change, warning in no uncertain terms of an “age of consequences” in which, amongst other things, “altruism and generosity would likely be blunted.” This was followed up a year later by an EU security report that talked of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that “threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone.”Continue reading