New Orleans Rallying Outside the Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement Building

Hey there! My name is Ian, and I’m a summer intern with UNITE HERE in New Orleans, Louisiana. On the second day of my internship, our group coordinator, Scott, received an urgent text about a rally downtown that needed our support. We swiftly mobilized in front of The Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement where we were greeted by the Roche’s, a family from Guatemala with four sons, along with Dream Activists Louisiana.  They told us the story of Henry, the oldest son, who was on the verge of deportation. Henry himself gave a moving speech about his life in Guatemala and how he now felt like an American and only wanted to stay here with his family so that he could pursue his dream of becoming a dentist. His mother’s words pierced our hearts when she said that going back meant he could face extortion, kidnapping, or even death.

We stood in solidarity with signs and chanted, “The people united, will never be defeated! ¡El pueblo unido,
jamás será vencido!” A few yards away, a line of security guards was the perfect symbol for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: a gang of bullies with badges. When the sun reached its highest point, the rally dissolved and we left the Bureau wishing the best to the Roche family.

After refueling, we mapped out our next action on the back of an empty pizza box.  The plan was to go to the W Hotel, an upscale hotel, and pass out flyers. We were there to inform customers and W Hotel managers about the dispute that UNITE HERE has with the HEI-operated W Hollywood.  We spread out around the building leafleting. One security guard for the hotel walked out and said to a woman with a flyer, “Don’t read that, that’s garbage”. The woman was only more enticed to read something that caused such a reaction. Never had I imagined that we would be doing such important work this summer.  I look forward to doing more, and writing about more exciting adventures in the future!

– Ian, 2012 Summer Organizer, New Orleans

Top Photo: Ian with his fellow interns and the Louisiana Dream Activist rallying outside the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Building.

Bottom Photo: Ian’s fellow New Orleans OBB Interns, Shanique and Byron, handing out flyers outside of the W Hotel.

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

Sky Chefs Actions Across the Nation

New Orleans LeafletSummer Organizers from coast to coast have been working hard to inform CVS managers and customers about issues at Sky Chefs, one of CVS’ vendors. Around the country, there have been about 30 delegations to CVS thus far! After the excitement Summer Organizers in New York experienced during their action, Summer Organizers in Chicago, Phoenix and New Orleans share their experiences:

Chicago Leaflet

“In Chicago, we took our materials to a CVS on Friday, July 1st. The CVS manager called the police, claiming we were harassing customers. Of course, we were not harassing customers, and so I wasn’t worried when the police showed up, but if we hadn’t known our rights they would have at the very least made us leave. So that leads me to the most important lesson I learned this week: Always know your rights. If you don’t, people may try to take advantage of you.” – Sophia, Summer Organizer, Chicago

New Orleans CVS leaflet

“In Phoenix, we had two very different experiences in our actions in support of SkyChefs workers this week. Johnny’s team distributed the FDA report and Food Bill of Rights to CVS management, who refused to sign the letter to the CVS supply chain executive. The team leafleted outside until management said the police were on their way. On the other side of the spectrum, our team spoke to a supervisor who really listened to us when we shared the information about Sky Chefs with him. He agreed to send all our material up the management chain. Since he had agreed to share information with his higher-ups, we didn’t leaflet, and at first our team was disappointed that we didn’t encounter the same excitement other teams had. But when we talked about the action in the car aftNew Orleans Leafleterwards, we remembered that we had accomplished our goal to bring the truth to higher levels of the company. So both Johnny’s team and our team were successful, just in different ways!”
– Jibran, Summer Organizer, Phoenix

New Orleans was also rocking and rolling, thanks to the hard work of Summer Organizers Charles, Zachary and Michael and their volunteers!