Hospitality Workers Plead for Action As Coronavirus Reaches New Orleans

Photo courtesy of New Orleans Hospitality Worker’s Alliance

As Mayor LaToya Cantrell prepared to brief the public on the latest CORVID-19 (aka coronavirus) developments, members of the New Orleans Hospitality Worker’s Alliance entered the briefing room and begged for the city to implement measures that would guarantee them healthcare and paid sick leave in the event of an outbreak. Activists holding signs reading “Emergency Alert, Sick Leave Now,” and “We are servers, cooks, bussers, cashiers, hotel workers, and more! If we get sick, YOU get sick!” at times talked over the mayor and each other in an effort to have their issues addressed. The incident, which was broadcast via Facebook Live on WVUE’s Facebook page, was noticeably cut from Mayor Cantrell’s stream of the same briefing.

Before being escorted from the briefing room, the protestors asked for the city to develop a plan that would provide hospitality and service industry workers with paid time off and adequate, affordable healthcare for every worker in the city in the event of an outbreak. While Cantrell did seem initially sympathetic to their plight, taking questions from the group directly for several minutes, she eventually stated that while she supported their efforts and had made sure that employees of the City of New Orleans received a higher minimum wage, paid time off, and adequate healthcare, she was unable to help their situation.

“As a product of the hospitality industry in the city of New Orleans, I can absolutely understand where they’re coming from,” Cantrell said.

“The needs of our residents and all of our employees in the City of New Orleans should be a priority, and it is, absolutely, for me as Mayor…with the understanding that in my authority, it really is as it relates to the city of New Orleans – meaning the municipality – in terms of what we can do and what we cannot do. We have made sure that our employees with the City of New Orleans do have sick leave, sick days, and access to quality, affordable care. And we will make sure that that continues to occur, in addition to raising the minimum wage for our city employees, which we have done. So with that, that is under our authority, and we will continue to work with not only activists but state leaders to ensure that we get where our people really want us to go. And that is, healthcare for all because they do matter. I recognize that in every way.”

The Louisiana Department of Health reported the first presumptive positive case of CORVID-19 on Monday. The patient is a Jefferson Parish resident and is currently hospitalized in Orleans Parish. Currently, this is the only case reported in Louisiana.

Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2019, she was given the title of “Most Fearless” by The Bayou Brief. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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