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New Orleans hospitality workers call for emergency sick pay, health care and virus testing

“If we don’t have sick leave and we don’t have health care we get all of the customers sick and our coworkers sick."

NEW ORLEANS — About a dozen protesters with the New Orleans Hospitality Workers' Alliance walked into city hall Monday afternoon chanting and carrying signs as Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other officials were preparing to update the public on the threat of Coronavirus.

“If we don’t have sick leave and we don’t have health care we get all of the customers sick and our coworkers sick,” said Meg Maloney with the group made of servers, cooks, bartenders and other hospitality workers.

In front of the mayor, several council members and other emergency officials Maloney and other workers demanded the city enact emergency sick pay, health care and free testing.

“They say that their hands are tied, they say they don’t have funding but when it comes to cops, when it comes to anything they deem appropriate they jump and put millions of dollars wherever they want,” said Ashlee Pintos, another worker with the group.

In what was at times a heated exchange, Cantrell said there is little she can do because these are private business.

“In my authority, it really is as it relates to the city of New Orleans, meaning the municipality in terms of what we can do and can’t do.”  

RELATED: Hospitality workers derail New Orleans coronavirus news update

City officials cited the constitution of Louisiana, which in article VI, section 9 says “no local governmental subdivision shall establish a mandatory, minimum number of vacation or sick leave days, whether paid or unpaid.”

Regardless of the brief war words between the two sides, Cantrell says she believes the fight for health care should and will continue.

“We will continue to work with not only activists but also state leaders to ensure that we get where our people really need us to go and that is health care for all because they do matter,” Cantrell said.

The protesters were escorted out by security while chanting that they would return though they fear though they are running out of options.

“There are no options to take off work and even if you do take off work and you take the cut in pay, we are often retaliated against for doing so by our bosses,” said Maloney, who declined to say which restaurant she is employed by.  

The group is asking for these changes to be made immediately. They fear their health and yours depends on it.

RELATED: No plans to cancel major events in New Orleans, mayor says risk 'remains low'

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