Should New Orleans Restart the Tourism Economy?
By Jeff Thomas
Restarting the tourism economy boils down to how many people you are willing to sacrifice. Statistically speaking, reopening the tourism economy guarantees that some people who return to work will die. The benefit is that some more will have the income to pay bills. When you hear people talking about a balanced approach, recognize the scale has cash on one side and dead bodies on the other.
Remarkably, we now are talking about people leaving the safety of their homes and working in public with the public during the deadliest pandemic in human history to create profit. In New Orleans’ tourism economy, opening t-shirt shops and restaurants seems an especially callous calculation. And given the dearth of PPE (notice you know what that means), the health of low wage tourism workers is especially in danger. That US meat plants are now hotspots, is evidence that New Orleans’ tourism workers can expect to contract this disease shortly after any reopening. Are people really willing to risk their lives for $7.25 an hour?
Some business leaders insist not only that we can but that we should do this. After all, many restaurants are already open for takeout. And people need cash to pay housing costs, utility bills, car notes and credit card bills. And doing nothing will lead to a deep depression that will destroy generational wealth and could require years for recovery. Small businesses may close and never return. Jobs forever lost. Other businesses may permanently reduce their workforces creating even more permanent unemployment. With no job or cash, what will life be worth? How will people survive? They will eventually die. Given all of this we should reopen now.
People finally have some leverage and can shine the light on the exploitative, oppressive caste system in the New Orleans tourism economy. Let’s do a little simple math. A week’s pay for the local tourism economy worker is around $250. A week’s unemployment payout for the same worker is around $725. Now, I know some tourism workers suffer from some Stockholm Syndrome sentiments and will do just about anything to please their bosses, but others now see the return to work ask as a deal breaker. Especially when the workers will be unprotected on the front lines. Ironic fact is that the current unemployment pay is about equal to the living wage sought for years by many activists.
Employees Lives Matter
All Lives Matter was the retort when African Americans proclaimed Black Lives Matter in response to unjustified police murders of innocent people. Now we see that employees lives matter to businesses because they need them to generate profit, but without regard to their safety. It’s true -All Lives do Matter – just not equally.
“Should New Orleans restart the tourism economy? Absolutely. When it’s safe. But that’s complicated.