As Still Perkin’ Enters Second Week of Strikes, NOLA Labor Issues Gain National Spotlight

A worker pickets outside of the Still Perkin’ coffee shop on May 20, 2020. Courtesy of Ryne Hancock.

Baristas and staff at Still Perkin’ have entered their second week of strikes as local labor efforts continue to build momentum and garner national attention. 

According to a press release by the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance, on May 13, five employees presented the conditions upon which they would agree to return to work. The owner only verbally agreed to “some safety protocols.”

Additionally, the workers’ pay was slashed – from an average of $16 to $18 an hour to only $8.25 an hour – and the owners failed to provide tip compensation. According to their Go Fund Me, the owner, Kathy Redmann, refused all negotiations for increased wages: 

Kathy continued to disparage us and made no concessions to either increase wages or properly adhere to health or safety standards. She informed us that if we did not show up to work under these unsafe conditions, we would no longer have a job.”

Workers picket outside of the Still Perkin’ coffee shop on May 20, 2020. Courtesy of Ryne Hancock.

According to the Hospitality Workers Alliance, Redmann is also refusing to give the workers paid sick leave, while failing to enforce basic safety protocols to prevent the workers from catching COVID-19. 

On Friday, May 22, the workers entered day seven of their demonstrations outside of the Garden District coffee shop. 

This time, the picketers were fed by Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Gladewaves, a charity food organization in New Orleans. 

Struggle – La Lucha also spread the news to a national audience, publicizing their demands on their website.

On May 21, major independent news outlet Democracy Now! ran a story on the striking sanitation workers in New Orleans – again putting local labor practices on a national stage and embarrassing the City of New Orleans, which contracts with Metro Disposal for waste disposal. 

For Still Perkin and the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance, their cause is inseparable from their striking colleagues at Metro Disposal. 

“Still Perkin’ baristas stand in solidarity with striking New Orleans sanitation workers who were fired for demanding higher wages, hazard pay, and PPE. We workers have the power to demand better,” the Hospitality Workers Alliance press release said. 

A worker pickets outside of the Still Perkin’ coffee shop on May 20, 2020. Courtesy of Ryne Hancock.

Without greater protection by the City of New Orleans, the economic crisis created by the pandemic has the potential to spread to other sectors of the overburdened local service industry. 

“The multi-billion dollar tourism industry exists because of our labor. Workplace organizing is the only way we can collectively address these issues and protect ourselves as workers,” the Hospitality Workers Alliance said.

“We encourage other workers in New Orleans to take action and fight for what we all deserve.” 

Ryne Hancock contributed to this piece. 

You can contribute to the Still Perkin’ GoFundMe here

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