Struggle for Black Lives Continues in Gordon Plaza

Sept. 9: Residents, including Derrick (pictured), speak out at rally in Gordon Plaza.

by Christina Tareq

Nearly 40 years ago, the City of New Orleans decided the toxic Agriculture Street landfill was the perfect place to construct and sell homes to Black New Orleanians. Building the Gordan Plaza subdivision, the city sold the homes to first-time homeowners. Today, Gordan Plaza (GP) has the second highest rate of cancer in the entire nation. “We are being experimented on, let’s see how long Black people can live on top of 150 cancer-causing chemicals,” says Shannon Rainey, President of the GP housing association and an organizer with the New Orleans People’s Assembly.

GP residents won a lawsuit against the city 20 years ago but still have not received restitution. There are 54 residents stranded in GP who continue to pay property taxes for homes that are killing them. They have been told by mayor after mayor to “be patient” as community members die of cancer. While most homes appreciate in value, these homes are essentially worthless. With no ability to sell their homes or rent them in good conscience, the only option for these working class Black families is to wage a struggle against the city for fully funded relocation of their community.

While running for mayor, LaToya Cantrell publicly called for fully funded relocation for Gordon Plaza. Since becoming mayor in 2018, she has said that she “hears Gordon Plaza” and that her administration is working on a “solution.” Yet the only changes the residents have seen over the last two years are more deaths, most recently that of one of the neighborhood’s long-time organizers, Mr. Robert Anderson, may he rise in power.

At a rally in Gordon Plaza on September 9, Mr. Derrick, who grew up in the neighborhood and whose mother still lives there, asked in regard to Mayor Cantrell’s empty promises, “who else will fight for our lives, if it’s not a Black woman? That’s the reason we were told to vote for a Black woman.” Mayor Cantrell continues to spur the calls for protecting Black lives in a majority Black city while meeting with White supremacists concerned about the fate of confederate statues. It’s up to the people to stand with each other! Join the struggle for a fully funded relocation for Gordon Plaza. Black lives matter while they yet live!

Hurricane Laura Evacuees Need Federal Aid Now

by Conway Lebleu and Joseph Rosen

As of September 11, the mandatory evacuation of Calcasieu parish has been lifted. Still, Lake Charles looks like a war zone. Surrounding areas have also been devastated. Most places are without electricity and clean drinking water. Trees felled, roofs disassembled and detached. Some people have decided to leave, weary of destruction. Others would do the same but don’t have the means to get out of town. One resident reported staying on the porch of his friend’s home, fighting mosquitos and unable to sleep, because his own house was crushed. His phone was stolen, so he is depending on a cousin of a friend. They are both still waiting on FEMA to call them back.

A Lake Charles resident, Jennifer Fisher, described arriving in New Orleans without a place to stay: “we came for a voucher and they were out. We walked from hotel to hotel trying to find somewhere to stay. No help from FEMA. They just say call 211.”

“They’re telling me they’re going to assist me. I do everything I have to do. They sent me to SBA and they denied me a loan. How am I supposed to get a loan? I don’t have a job. I don’t have a car.”

As of September 10, FEMA had registered 131,000 Louisiana survivors of Hurricane Laura. Thousands have no housing except what they’ve secured through temporary vouchers or the help of families and friends. Another evacuee, Gabriel Raymond, put it plainly: “Just give me somewhere to stay. I can go to work. Just give me somewhere to sleep.”

Many homeowners cannot afford to repair their homes since only 20% of homes in the area are covered by insurance, and many can’t afford deductibles that often exceed 15 thousand dollars.

According to FEMA, 97 million dollars has been approved for individual and household assistance. The news station KATC claims that FEMA “distributed more than $89 million to residents.” This relief pales in comparison to the estimated $20 billion in damages incurred from the storm.

“We need help.” Fisher expressed frustration with the measly government aid. She pointed out that U.S. government had more than enough money to address people’s emergency needs if only the government put people over profits.

“Here go the president… He could do something. He did the most to try to build a wall.” In 2017 after Hurricane Maria took the lives of more than 5,000 people in Puerto Rico, Trump announced he was diverting $155 million from FEMA’s disaster relief fund to pay off his goons in the fascist Border Patrol as well as the companies that run for-profit concentration camps for ICE.

The U.S. government spends more than $1.2 trillion ($1,200,000,000,000) in tax dollars every year on war and repression. This money could be used to provide emergency relief to everyone affected by capitalist caused climate disasters.

Louisiana needs emergency funds NOW! Fund disaster recovery, not disastrous wars!

The New Orleans Workers Group demands:

  • Immediate federal relief funds to guarantee housing, food, and security to everyone affected by Hurricane Laura, regardless of documentation or citizenship status.
  • Expand hotel vouchers to include all evacuees and extend them indefinitely.
  • Federal home repair funds to cover what insurance doesn’t pay.
  • Living wage jobs program to assist with disaster recovery.
  • Bus and parking vouchers for all evacuees.
  • A moratorium on rent and mortgage payments for all evacuees.
  • Free healthcare services for all evacuees.

Letter to the Editor

From a Library Worker

Since COVID-19 erupted in New Orleans in mid-March, library workers have been fighting for workplace and community safety. We’re very aware of our vital place in the community, and also the enormous potential to contribute to community spread of the virus. Because of our unique position as a public resource and a potential site of infection, we want to do our part to serve the enormous needs of the public as safely as possible. There is so much we can do while mitigating the risk to ourselves and those we serve. This crisis presents an opportunity to reinvent our library system (and our city) as a more tech-savvy and flexible organization that responds to the changing needs of the citizens of New Orleans — if our administration and city government give us the resources and trust to do so. So far, they have lacked the imagination to build a true “City of Yes” or to listen to those of us with the most experience and investment in New Orleans, especially city workers.

Now, Mayor Cantrell and CAO Montano, with the complicity of the City Council, are attempting to kill the library’s independent millage, rolling it into a larger city millage that will cut 40% of the library system’s budget while siphoning our designated tax funds into unspecified “economic development” projects. If this proposal to combine dedicated millages succeeds, they will dole out tax funds to the library, but only what they think we need, and only as long as we comply with their agenda for us and for the City.

Make no mistake – this cut isn’t because the library is overfunded, but because the library has access to dedicated tax funds that the City can’t easily access. These are funds that the citizens of New Orleans overwhelmingly voted to dedicate to the library in 1987 and 2015. The Mayor’s ballot proposal is demanding you say that your own judgement about where your money should go was wrong, that the Mayor and CAO know better how to spend your tax dollars. At meetings last month, City Council members ignored over 900 public comments, most saying “we want our money to go to the library, don’t do this” in order to approve this proposal. Many public comments invoked the global demands of the BLM movement and protests, reminding Councilmembers that the public has called for cuts to the New Orleans Police Department, not the library system. If the proposal passes the Bond Commission, it will be on the ballot December 5, 2020 and your only option will be to VOTE NO to the proposal to kill the library’s dedicated millage. After the public defeats the Mayor’s agenda, we will seek to encourage her to put a true millage renewal on the ballot in 2021.

There is so much we can do before December 5th – contact your Councilmember, the Mayor and CAO and tell them you do not support this proposal to kill the library’s independent millage. Promise everyone you contact that you won’t vote to re-elect them if they support this rampant misappropriation of both city funds and public trust. When you tell others about what they’re attempting, make sure to point out that this is about controlling tax funds the public designated to specific departments, because that’s the part they’re counting on the public not to recognize. They’re using the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic to talk about austerity and budget shortfalls, but this combined millage was proposed to the City Council in 2019, before COVID-19 had affected the City. Their agenda is to kill the dedicated budget of one of the only institutions in New Orleans that exists only to serve the people of New Orleans – each and every one.

They’re coming for the library’s budget now, but it won’t stop there. Please join us. You can email us and follow our fight on Facebook at

Abolish the Capitalist Supreme Court – Editorial

Trump poses a real danger by nominating an extreme conservative and open white supremacist woman to the Supreme Court. The tyrannical decisions made by the Supreme Court and federal judges result in immense harm to the people. However, in the panic over the nomination, people overlook the most fundamental aspects of the court—that it is a capitalist tool of the billionaire ruling class and that only mass struggle against the capitalists can beat back reactionary court rulings.

The lifetime-appointed judges of the Supreme Court and the Federal courts uphold the undemocratic right of the capitalists to own and control all of society to the detriment of millions of workers and oppressed people. There are no workers who are judges. When an occasional woman or non-white person is nominated they are carefully vetted to make sure they uphold the capitalist order.

This author worked on a massive rent control referendum in Baltimore that was voted for overwhelmingly by thousands. One federal judge overturned the people’s decision by deciding that the referendum illegally interfered with the rights of landlords. Some democracy!

Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg must be acknowledged for stubbornly trying, while coping with a painful disease, to outlive a Trump administration. But to attribute gains made for women or LGBT people to her rulings alone rather than the mass action of women or the LGBTQ movement is false and deceptive.

Crediting a capitalist court or Congress for progress plays into the same mythology that attributes hero status to Franklin D. Roosevelt for the New Deal laws. In reality, it was the militant struggle of millions of workers to challenge the capitalist system that won social security, unemployment insurance, and more. When corporate lobbyists voiced their objections to these reforms, Roosevelt revealingly said, “Do you want me to wait until workers march on the White House with machine guns?”


The struggle can push the right wing back. In fact, it is the struggle alone that succeeds in winning new laws or repealing others. The Supreme Court, federal courts and the constitution upheld slavery and racist Jim Crow laws until the movement was too powerful to ignore. No Supreme Court judge, congressperson, or senator was responsible. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act while three of the justices had affiliations with the KKK. The capitalists let the court know they considered it better to grant some temporary concessions on paper rather than fan the flames of revolt which might threaten the system as a whole.

The real tragedy of 4 years of Trumpism is that for all the damage his regime did on behalf of the capitalist class, no liberal or social democratic politician saw fit to answer these attacks by calling for a powerful mass movement in the streets. Workers could have mounted the people power to unseat Trump at any point over the last 4 years; instead, liberals preached that a vote for the Democratic party was the answer. Instead of arousing the rage of workers based on the real harms done to us, the Democrats trotted out a doomed impeachment campaign on behalf of the Pentagon and the CIA.

If Biden is elected, will he march up to the Supreme or Federal Court and handcuff judges for their crimes against the people? No. If a federal judge rules that we have no right to protest police terror or a pipeline and that the Justice department can charge us with sedition, will Biden defy these judges? Of course not! Because above all else, Biden will reverently obey the institutions of capitalist society. If he didn’t, he’d run the risk of lifting the veil of deception from the eyes of the working masses. Biden supported the illegal coup against the democratically elected Evo Morales in Bolivia so that Elon Musk and the Tesla corporation could obtain lithium for their cars. Will he not do the same here?

Trump has nominated the reactionary Amy Coney Barrett. If the masses block him by taking to the streets, that would at least serve to show the power of the people. But at the same time, we need to expose that the Supreme Court, and all U.S. courts serve the interests of the capitalist class and will never deliver real justice to the people.

We need to sweep away the illusion of checks and balances. We need courts made up of and for the workers and oppressed. We need to mount movements and struggles to lift us all up from oppression and exploitation, but ultimately, we must exercise the greatest democracy of all and claim our right to revolution.

A Teacher’s Struggle During COVID-19

by John Guzda

As education workers and students all across Louisiana are embarking on this unique school year, we have all been confronted by the sad, devastating, and maddening realities of teaching in 2020. After years of our education system experiencing neglect, poor leadership, and inequitable investment resulting from the disastrous “school choice” and charter movement, many of us are truly suffering and struggling to teach and to learn in the time of Covid-19.

In just a couple weeks of being back in the classroom, the digital divide that exists throughout the Greater New Orleans area has never been more evident. Many of my kids do not have reliable internet access in their homes. This has resulted in students struggling to simply log on to our virtual classrooms. If they are lucky enough to be able to, many of them find themselves only getting removed several times throughout the class due to the lack of connectivity. As I am expected to teach from my brick and mortar building, I am also at the mercy of our district’s poor technology infrastructure and have been kicked out of my own classroom on several occasions due to a “poor connection.”

In my Social Studies classroom, where discussion, laughter, and peer-to-peer engagement is the norm, this year we are all just trying to “make it.” “Make it” through the virtual learning model while dealing with sub-standard technology access and, for the kids who are physically in the buildings, the ever-present reality that we can be infected at any moment from Covid-19. Our school buildings are old, filled with mold, falling apart, and do not have proper ventilation. Having faulty temperature guns pointed to our foreheads as we enter our campuses each day does not provide any of us with a sense of comfort.

Our kids and colleagues are frustrated, stressed out and overworked. Teaching students both virtually and physically is a juggling act that is not ideal for even the most seasoned educator. Between creating new lessons to accommodate the virtual system, to ensuring that we are providing digital feedback to every student on every assignment, our work hours have only continued to increase.

The joy of teaching is all but gone this year. I hope it will come back at some point. The frustration and anxiety that I and many others feel over the conditions briefly described here is just further proof that Covid-19 has lifted the veil on the inequities we experience as public education workers and students across Greater New Orleans.

Across LA, Movement Against Police Terror Grows

Sept. 25: Demonstrators from across Louisiana convened at the Governor’s Mansion to demand justice for victims of police terror

by Adam Pedescleaux

A week after Lafayette resident Trayford Pellerin was murdered by police outside of a gas station for allegedly carrying a knife, a demonstration protesting police violence was organized by a group called The Village in coalition with the NAACP. People of Lafayette gathered to march through the streets with Black Lives Matter signs, stopping to listen to speeches from people who knew Pellerin personally. Speakers called for justice and for the pig to be tried and jailed for the racist killing.

Just days after a white supremacist murdered two anti-racist protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, tension was high. White supremacists were emboldened by the fact that Trump and the police supported this act of terrorism. New Black Panther Party members as well as a New Orleans Workers Group member showed up armed and ready to defend the lives of protestors against any far-right provocateurs. Two Boogaloo members (far-right bigots who are radicalized on racist cesspool websites) came out armed though they later left.

On September 25, the New Orleans Workers Group caravanned to Baton Rouge to join a coalition convened by The Village to demand justice for Trayford Pellerin, Ronald Greene, Breonna Taylor and the countless others who’ve lost their lives to killer cops.

If we the people desire change in our community and communities everywhere, it is critical that we take to the streets and show our strength and determination to enact real and lasting change for the better, not those half-baked non-solutions that our two-faced politicians sell us so they can continue to line their pockets in peace. It is a requirement that we convince our coworkers, friends, and families that we can win a future where we and our children are free from racist terror!

Unite the Fight for Union Construction Jobs & Community Needs

$400 million in public funds for safe schools, not Gayle Benson

by Gavrielle Gemma

Construction union leaders recently opposed a demand to redirect the $400 million in public funds for the Superdome renovation to meet the dire needs of the community during this time of crisis. Once again the capitalists and their politicians have managed to pit workers against the community over seemingly opposing interests. This scenario will never play out in favor of workers or the community. A new way forward must be forged.

Big oil tells workers their fate is linked to oil production. They want to convince their workers that what’s good for BP or Exxon Mobil is good for you. The oil industry had record profits for years, got billions in subsidies from the government, and destroyed the coast. Bloody wars were fought to increase the wealth of company shareholders. But when prices drop, working class communities take the blow. Oil profits are in offshore bank accounts, not in the pockets of workers. The owners take those profits out of state and pay little if any taxes. Yet they expect oil workers to pledge their allegiance to the company.

The planet cannot survive continued fossil fuel production. Oil workers and their communities should take the lead now in a movement to secure jobs at equal wages in renewable energy. Instead of allowing tax exemptions and subsidies to big oil, they should support a transition to clean energy jobs with a guarantee for equal wages or better.

Only bosses benefit from getting public funds, tax exemptions.

The labor of tens of thousands of steel workers created enormous wealth, which has been used by company owners to bring in new hi-tech mini mills. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs, and communities were destroyed. Despite this, the union jumped to support the bosses’ scheme to get tariffs on steel imports. Have tariffs benefitted the workers? No.

Corporate tax cuts and public funded rip-offs have not created jobs.

As of 2018 Louisiana lost $12 billion in taxes due to the legislature giving their friends and contributors tax exemptions while these companies made lots of profit. That $12 billion could have been invested in housing, roads, and childcare, creating thousands of living wage jobs. Thousands of construction workers would have been needed.

The Trump tax cuts were sold on the basis that this would stimulate hiring and good wages. Most of that money went to huge executive salaries, investors’ dividends and stock buybacks. The very same companies that profited from the tax cuts laid off thousands of workers.

$400 million in public funds to make schools safe, hire construction workers.

Gayle Benson is the richest person in Louisiana. The Bensons got their wealth by ripping off the public by hundreds of millions of dollars. They were also exempted from sales and other taxes. The Superdome was built with public money but the revenue it has produced has not returned money to the benefit of the Parish.

Construction workers have been hard hit in this depression. Work for union members is especially hard to come by and often depends on publicly funded projects. It’s understandable the construction trades support this giveaway of public funds. But other workers are suffering also. There is enough for all if we fight together.

Together we should demand that public money used for school re-openings. The schools are not safe from COVID-19. School facilities are lacking in every way from plumbing, reconfiguring classrooms, and especially proper air filtering.

$400 million should be used to hire construction workers to make these schools safer. This would require carpenters, laborers, plumbers, steamfitters, HVAC, and more. The community would welcome this to protect the children, staff, and communities, and provide construction jobs.

The trades might answer: “That’s all in the future. We need to feed our families now!” No one expects workers not to show up for work at the Superdome. What we suggest is that at the same time they start a campaign for public funds for workers and communities now.

The labor movement—especially the construction trades—needs a new fighting strategy to win a better world for all working people.

*This author of this article was married for decades to a union steamfitter and knows the ups and downs of construction work, unemployment, loss of health benefits in down times, and the dangerous nature of this work.


by Sanashihla

Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) workers are right to collectively demand pay increases and safe work conditions. Too often the Mayor of New Orleans and the Executive Director of the S&WB (whose yearly pay recently increased from $265,000 to $295,000) hold press conferences touting “their” great work, but it’s the labor of the workers that really move the city forward.

The workers ought to be the ones administering the city-wide utility service. Their knowledge and expert skills make them the best authority to decide how the city’s resources are best used to meet the needs of the community.

In August, it was revealed that a private contractor named Olameter was hired to increase meter readings. A local reporter exposed that, “the contract calls for Olameter to be paid $37.97 per hour for each of the 20 workers being provided under the contract, with an expenditure cap of $500,000 over three months. S&WB meter readers are paid $13 an hour, though S&WB’s spokesperson, Courtney Barnes, maintains that the utility has been working to get the city’s Civil Service Commission to raise wages.

It’s not the workers who benefit when city contracts are awarded to the friends of city officials. The workers are cheated again when high utility bills cut into their already low wages. The way out of this exploitive situation is not to gripe about how bad things are, but to organize.

The S&WB workers shouldn’t wait on the Civil Service Commission to give raises. Raises can be won through worker solidarity and an organized effort to push workers’ demands. To wage this fight, the workers need an independent union.

Where there is no union, fight for one. Where there is a union, fight to make it fight!”

It is the legal right of workers to unionize, even in a right to work state. Organized, the workers could decide that instead of hiring 20 temporary workers to be paid at twice the rate of full time workers, all employees would be hired full time on a permanent basis, with living wages and safe work conditions.

The S&WB workers don’t need the Civil Service Commission, nor private contractors, nor high paid overseers to direct and control them. The S&WB would operate so much more efficiently if the workers were in control.

Public support for S&WB workers is present, because this is the same S&WB that is notorious for guesstimating bills and overcharging residents. Support for S&WB workers will only rise when the workers unite in solidarity across departments and job roles and fight for their collective rights! When we fight, we win!

Free Quierza Lewis!

Angola Inmate Targeted for Organizing to Contain COVID-19

Quierza Lewis (center) with family.

by Z Petrosian

As COVID-19 infected and killed men at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Quierza Lewis knew he had to do something to protect himself and other inmates. Denied adequate testing, proper medical care, PPE, sanitizer, and unable to physically distance, Lewis and two other inmates began to seek legal advice and discuss the possibility of a peaceful protest aimed at improving living conditions at the prison.

For this organizing, Quierza was charged with the intent to initiate a work stoppage and moved to solitary confinement. In an even more absurd move, Angola officials charged him with bribery, citing a GoFundMe a friend set up to help with his case. Quierza was denied a lawyer to fight these charges.

“I just couldn’t let them railroad Quierza like that,” said Tanisha Lewis, Quierza’s older sister. Taking matters into their own hands, Tanisha was joined by other activists in contacting the prison on Quierza’s behalf: “I let them know that the calling wasn’t going to stop.” As more people called and help publicize the situation, the prison was pressured into dropping the bribery charge, and on September 14, Quierza was sent back to general population after 34 days in solitary.

Pandemic conditions at Angola warrant immediate action

The organizing Quierza and the two other inmates were trying to initiate is desperately needed at Angola where COVID-19 has sickened hundreds and claimed the lives of at least 16 inmates and 3 staff. “They know they are not doing what they need to,” Tanisha remarked. “They hate that the inmates are getting [that information] out.”

Still, as illnesses and deaths mount, the Department of Corrections itself claims they have only tested 1,365 inmates, roughly one quarter Angola’s incarcerated population of around 5,500.

Making matters worse, Angola inmates generally have to pay for their own medical care. Though these fees have been waived during the pandemic, Quierza, who suffers from asthma, has been unable to obtain an inhaler. Frequent punitive chemical sprays in solitary aggravated his condition, and the next call to action is to advocate for Quierza’s access to an inhaler.

We are fighting for him.”

Tanisha is worried but steadfastly fighting for her brother: “My mom died fighting for her baby. She died fighting for him, and I’ve gotta continue.” That fight began nearly 16 years ago when Quierza, then 25, was convicted of cocaine distribution by a non-unanimous jury relying on testimony that three co-defendants gave in exchange for lighter charges. Quierza was sentenced to life without parole even though no drugs or paraphernalia were found on him or in his home.

Quierza Lewis is one of thousands of incarcerated people who have made efforts to organize behind bars to fight for their lives in the face of the pandemic and the broader system of injustice. When their jailers try to silence their voices, those on the outside must make them heard because none of us is free while our siblings remain in cages. For Quierza and all other non-violent offenders, we demand the state #FreeThemAll!

Come Fire or Flood, Incarcerated Workers are Saving Our Lives

Sept. 13: Valley View inmate firefighters working in Butte County, CA

As fire and hurricane seasons become longer and increasingly dangerous, incarcerated workers are on the frontlines fighting to protect our communities. Often risking their own lives to save those on the outside, these workers receive little pay if any.

In California, thousands of incarcerated firefighters receive only $2-$5 a day and an additional $1 per hour during active fires even though they have the same training as Cal Fire’s non-incarcerated firefighters who earn an average of more than $70,000 per year. The State of California has admitted stealing $100 million per year in wages from incarcerated firefighters.

Louisiana: Unpaid incarcerated workers from Hunt Correctional Center work 12-hour shifts to make tens of thousands of sandbags ahead of Hurricane Barry in 2019.

Here on the Gulf Coast, incarcerated workers regularly work during storms and other disasters such as oil spills. In Louisiana, those who work on storm preparation and recovery are generally not paid even a penny for their long hours.

None of us is free while any remains in chains, and no worker should tolerate slave wages for any other worker. Not only is this exploitation wrong but it results in our own inability to find work at decent wages. If governments and other employers are allowed to pay slave wages to incarcerated workers, why would they decrease their profits by paying even minimum wage to someone on the outside?

Workers unite across the prison bars! Together, we will win!