Despite the official New Orleans unemployment rate climbing to 9.5%, and close to 30% of New Orleanians falling below the poverty line, the Democratic-controlled city council still rammed through a Sewage & Water Board rate increase initiative from the citys corporate mayor, Mitch Landreau.
Stemming from government mismanagement, the citys sewage infrastructure needs at least a $3.3 billion investment after decades of neglect. In that context, local Democratic bosses are leading the charge to make the citys working poor shoulder the cost. New Orleans faces a yearly 10% rate hike, leaving working people with a bill that will double by 2020. Despite minor differences among the councilmembers on the process of passing the rate increases, they were unified that the citys working families will have to further cut into their fixed incomes. Meanwhile, the areas three Fortune 500 companies are staying in sync with Corporate Americas historic record profits – last quarter totaling $1.75 trillion! Equally as historic, wages hit an all-time low, falling to only 43% of GDP.
Predictably, there was no mention in the city council chamber of raising capital gains taxes on the Greater New Orleans areas monopoly cartels like Shaw Group and Energy. With the complete corporate control of city politics, working people need to build a youthful and active campaign to reverse the citys tradition of making the working and middle classes face depressed standards of living while the business community wastes and mismanages resources.
How to Fight Back Against Corporate Greed
Faced with similar water charges, the Irish working class launched a mass democratic grassroots campaign to defeat an IMF-backed tax through a mass non-payment campaign with millions refusing to pay the rates. Prominent working-class campaigners like Joe Higgins then ran for office to bring the resistance into the halls of power. Likewise, if we are to defeat this corporate agenda, well need to build a united and independent campaign of trade union activists, young people, community organizations, and occupy activists with clear goals and demands:
- No rate increases for working- and middle-class families.
- Fund the city budget through taxing the rich and bringing Shaw Group and Energy under public ownership.
- Mass neighborhood meetings, rallies, and union meetings need to be launched to protest against this attack on our living standards.
Critically, the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO and community organizations need to break the political truce with the Democratic Party, which has historically sought to hijack and sabotage the workers and civil rights movements. The Democratic Party is the mortician, gravedigger, and graveyard of social movements, as we witnessed in Wisconsin and Michigan when workers lost their rights.
Coupled with mass meeting and marches, we need to take the steps to replace the corporate Democratic Party council members through independent grassroots electoral coalitions that would run independent working-class candidates standing on a program against cuts and hikes. These candidates and campaigns would demand jobs for all at a living wage and with union benefits, free and affordable healthcare, free public education from pre-K to college, and democratic community control of the police. These anti-corporate candidates would live on the average wage of a worker, donating the rest to community organizations, and be accountable to the community and social movements.
Nationally, we need a mass party of working people. As a step towards this, NOLA Socialist Alternative calls for union members, community activists, and occupy activists to initiate union local and community meetings to discuss the need to organize a fightback against corporate greed and to prepare to run independent working-class candidates in the next elections.