New Orleans’s hospitality workers are the engine of the city’s tourism-based economy. Unfortunately, many of those workers don’t earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living, and 500 employees of the Hilton Riverside recently decided to do something about it. With the help of Unite Here, the workers formed a union and are in the process of negotiating a contract with the hotel operators. Their success at the city’s largest hotel could be a game-changer for hospitality workers across New Orleans. Richard Thompson with The Advocate has more:
“There’s no question that strong unions would help lift wages and improve working conditions for hospitality workers in New Orleans,” said Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a left-of-center nonprofit in Baton Rouge. “And if you can get enough critical mass of union shops, then the benefits are going to filter down even to non-union shops.” New Orleans hosted 10.5 million visitors last year, its highest number since 2004 and up nearly 7 percent from 2015, according to a study by the University of New Orleans. Moller believes that tally — and the $7.4 billion those visitors spent — is a sign that a unionized hospitality industry could work here.
While union organizers have historically been focused on workers in manufacturing industries, the hospitality industry is one that holds great potential for workers to benefit from having a collective voice:
If New Orleans had a larger labor presence, then a lot of the jobs that we now see are people scraping by would become middle-class jobs,” said David Sherwyn, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and academic director of the Cornell Institute for Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations. Historically, the hospitality industry was not seen as a prime target of organized labor, he said. These days, though, it’s viewed as the “holy grail,” especially as U.S. manufacturing has declined in recent decades.
Investing in early education
Ensuring kids have access to high-quality early childhood education pays important long-run dividends. It improves school readiness and academic performance, and has been shown to virtually eliminate socioeconomic achievement gaps. While Louisiana has increased the number of pre-kindergarten slots available to four-year-olds, the vast majority of children ages 0-3 in the state still do not have access to affordable, quality child care. Beth Hawkins with The 74 reveals how one new early care and education center in New Orleans serves as a model for what all children deserve in their earliest years:
But if there were one thing that would make a profound and immediate impact tomorrow, those leaders say, it would be finding a way to make high-quality early childhood education available to every low-income family. New Orleans is home to 23,000 children 4 and under. More than 42 percent live in poverty, and virtually all of them will continue on to the public school system, where impoverished children make up 85 percent of the student body. … It’s expensive — $18,000 a year per child at the New Orleans center — but research also shows the benefits remain as students advance through school. And economists have put the “return on investment” for every tax dollar spent on high quality care at 16 to 1.
Executive order threatens ACA marketplaces
While Republicans in Congress were unsuccessful in their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take coverage away from millions, President Donald Trump’s administration is developing ways to undermine the law without legislative action. This week, the White House is finalizing an executive order that would allow the proliferation of “association health plans” that would not be subject to the ACA’s consumer protection regulations. Vox’s Dylan Scott reports on how the proposed change would affect the stability of the health insurance marketplaces:
The self-employed individuals likely to flee the law’s markets for association plans would probably be younger and healthier, leaving behind an older, sicker pool for the remaining Obamacare plans. That has the makings of a death spiral, with ever-increasing premiums and insurers deciding to leave the market altogether. “The ability for individuals to purchase health insurance through an association really puts the individual market at risk and destabilizes it over the long term,” [Georgetown University’s Kevin] Lucia said. “When you have market segmentation, it over time leads to higher premiums and it becomes less attractive to carriers.”
More oversight needed for charter schools
Charter schools in Louisiana have more autonomy than traditional public schools, but are still subject to oversight by the state’s Department of Education. According to an audit released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor on Monday, the Department of Education has not adequately monitored and evaluated charter schools. Secretary of Education John White agreed with several of the points raised in the report, but disagreed with a finding regarding the number of at-risk students enrolled in charter schools. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports:
The report said the agency failed to ensure the required number of at-risk students were enrolled in charter schools. The result is that, for two types of charters, 19 percent of schools failed to have the necessary number of at-risk students for the 2015-16 school year. The report said state law and charter contracts require that a certain number of charter school students be classified as at-risk. At-risk students include those who qualify for free and reduced lunches, those with exceptionalities and students who are the mother or father of a child. Education officials said they disagreed with the auditor’s premise that state law requires preference for at-risk students.
Number of the Day
197 – Number of community health centers in Louisiana whose federal funding expired on Sept. 30 and has yet to be authorized by Congress. (Source: National Association of Community Health Centers)