Growing as an Organizer in New Orleans

On June 6th, 2011, my life was opened to many new opportunities and people that I never even imagined I’d encounter. This was the day I began my Summer Organizer position with UNITE HERE through the Organizing Beyond Barriers program. My leads, Scott Cooper and Yvonne Gladney, have really directed this internship in the best way possible. I and my fellow Summer Organizers Charles and Michael have experienced so many new things and discovered new talents and areas of improvement that we fear would have remained dormant otherwise.

We hit the ground running in June, participating in a Shop Stewards meeting for the Grand Hotel and Casino on the second day of the program. We have also spent many hours on house visits, campus surveys and the ever-important planning that must be done when starting new here in the Big Easy. All this led up to a trip to Chicago. It was a truly amazing experience getting exposed to the LGBTQ and SkyChefs struggle along with meeting all of the fellow Summer Organizers at Local 1. Since the trip we have planned numerous actions and trainings that all have gone well.

One experience in particular helped me grow as an organizer: A police officer arrived on the scene while we were leafleting at a CVS location in New Orleans. I was afraid he was going to give us a hard time but I didn’t want to appear nervous. So, I proceeded to explain that SkyChefs plight to the officer. I realized I was able to stay poised under pressure, which grew my confidence. I also tried to hand him a leaflet, but he didn’t take one – we all had a good laugh about that afterwards.

We drove to San Antonio this week to participate in a rally at the Hyatt. Yesterday’s Hyatt rally was a very inspiring event that I will never forget. It was well organized, publicized, and effective. Hyatt if not before definitely now knows that UNITE HERE means business – we are here and will continue to be here to make sure that justice is served!

Coming into the closing weeks of this program I am grateful for the opportunity and experiences and am expecting good things in the future for UNITE HERE and the rest of the struggling working class. This internship has opened my eyes to how I can make a difference in this world not by writing about it or reading a book but actually doing something and standing up for what’s right.

Zachary, Summer Organizer, New Orleans