Step Up and Other Groups Push for Worker’s Bill of Rights

Step Up Louisiana Dollar Store Organizer Kenya Slaughter

Led by Step Up Louisiana, representatives of several community organizations and other advocates spoke passionately in support of the proposed Worker’s Bill of Rights at the New Orleans City Council’s Economic Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 19. On Thursday March 21, the full Council will consider a ballot proposal to amend the City’s Home Rule Charter Charter to codify a core set of rights for New Orleans workers. The charter change amendment will appear on the November 5, 2024 ballot. The current Bill of Rights does not include specific protections for workers.

Almost twenty speakers including Kisha Edwards, Britain Forsyth, Bob Murrill, Kenny Arbuthnot, Jack “Big Okra” Sweeney, and restaurateur Shermond Esteen of Nonna’s addressed Councilmembers Helena Moreno and J.P. Morrell. Both council members are long-time supporters of higher wages and better working conditions for all New Orleanians.

Step Up’s amendment language addresses the right of people to live in economic prosperity and to receive fair living wagers for their labor, equal pay, comprehensive healthcare coverage and paid leave for the purposes of medical, family, bereavement and vacation time. The language also speaks to a safe workplace which complies with all laws as well as the right to organize.

Step Up Louisiana member Curtis Williams

Speaker after speaker addressed these issues and likened poverty to a health care crisis both physical and mental. New Orleanians deserve to have equitable pay, not just survivor pay. The goal of the legislation is to help the people who can’t help themselves. When workers do better businesses do better. Housing does better when workers do better. This legislation will build a strong foundation so that workers can go out and support themselves. Council President Moreno called the ballot proposal a “pro-business measure.”

Some advocates were especially concerned about new policies and laws that are being rapidly enacted by Governor Jeff Landry and the impact they will have on low-income workers, especially those who have been a part of the criminal justice system.  

“We’ve never been fair. We’ve never been equal. We’ve been ‘separate’ all our lives. This pay will help us all live a better life,” concluded one speaker.   

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