New Orleans workers will come together for a host of issues including prison reform, immigration reform and the treatment of local musicians at the Workers Unity March Friday, Sept. 27.
The event, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7, was postponed due to a heat advisory.
The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance and Southern Babes for Social Justice are organizing the event, and members of both organizations plan to speak at the rally. Organizers said that while the march spans a variety of topics, all of them affect the city’s workers and their ability to perform their jobs.
“The march is a response mostly to the recent ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids in the hospitality industry, particularly in the French Quarter, but also in response to the recent arrest of musicians in the French Quarter,” organizer and member of the New Orleans Hospitality Workers alliance Meg Maloney told Gambit.
Ashlee Pintos, a fellow organizer and member of the hospitality alliance, said she hopes the march brings the city’s workers together and helps spur conversations about issues like for-profit prisons and ICE detention centers and the lack of accessible health care for some hospitality workers.
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“We just think that specifically solidarity between co-workers who may be documented and co-workers who are undocumented is extremely important,” she said. “...This is just us coming together to talk about these issues and talk about how we can build solidarity in our workplaces and in our community.”
While tourism and hospitality industry leaders say the industry includes more than 80,000 workers in the city, a 2018 study from the Data Center estimated the number to be closer to 30,000. Differing methodologies and definitions of a job in the industry may account for the difference.
The rally follows a recent surge in detained migrants by ICE in southern states, particularly in Louisiana and Mississippi. According to NBC News, data shared with them by ICE showed that those detained by ICE in the two states increased nearly four times from the end of 2017 through July of this year, from more than 2,000 to more than 8,000.
The new numbers would make Louisiana the state with the second largest population of ICE detainees, second to Texas, the NBC News article said. Louisiana and Mississippi now have a combined total of 13 ICE facilities, eight of which first contracted with ICE this year.
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Organizers said they picked the location of Congo Square for the upcoming march based on its historical significance.
“Historically, Congo Square was a place in which enslaved people could meet once a week on Sundays, to convene and participate in music and dance but also acts of resistance,” Maloney said. “A lot of the time we choose to start there to sort of honor that and respect that history.”
The rally will take place at 5 p.m.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Workers Unity March was originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7 but was postponed until Friday, Sept. 27 due to a heat advisory.