The Hard Rock Collapse Is a Predictable, Awful Crime of Capitalism

New Orleans DSA stands in solidarity with all workers in the aftermath of the catastrophic collapse on the corner of Canal and Rampart streets, on the site of a former Civil Rights Movement landmark which was planned to be a Hard Rock Hotel. 

We condemn the greed, neglect, and corruption fostered by capitalists who prioritize profits over human life — not just the developers making a hotel for tourists instead of actually affordable housing for workers, not just the notoriously anti-union contractors who endanger and threaten workers, not just the politicians and bureaucrats who accept donations, bribes, and the goodwill of their most powerful friends, not just our local government who thinks that an Apple Store and Cracker Barrel on Canal Street are the upper echelon of what we can achieve — all of these and more. Capitalism encourages the individualist, profit-driven culture that would call this disaster a senseless tragedy but not a crime.

Of more than 110 workers onsite at the time of the disaster, at least three have died, with dozens of workers injured. This tragedy isn’t over, and the bosses still have the upper hand. Here’s how it happened: 

  • Bosses neglected worker safety complaints. 
  • Bosses misclassified workers. This is wage theft. By calling workers “independent contractors,” bosses avoid paying proper overtime, benefits and taxes.  But it’s even worse than that — misclassified workers are also robbed of workers compensation for injuries on the job!
  • Bosses put profits over workers. Unionized electricians protested at the site last month because contractors were flouting the rules, employing “unlicensed and unqualified electricians, against city ordinances.” 
  • Government didn’t protect us. The original developer received special zoning and density exceptions for the project at the same time that he was defrauding the Road Home Program. When he was sentenced to a federal prison, his family got to keep the property and continue the project. By the way, New Orleans’ Department of Safety and Permits is under federal investigation for building inspectors accepting bribes from 2011 to 2019 from “individuals seeking favorable inspection reports.” 
  • Workers pay the price, always. In addition to the construction workers directly impacted by this disaster — physically, emotionally, and financially — the effects are felt throughout the city’s working class. Businesses near the site have been evacuated, putting people out of work indefinitely. Street closures have affected worker commutes by car and transit.  

What’s next?  

  • Demand the developer and contractor pay all medical costs and back pay to misclassified workers!
  • Demand a responsible bidder ordinance requiring all government contracts AND contracts receiving any subsidies or tax breaks to use unionized labor, including subcontractors.
  • Pay attention. What happens to the property? What happens to the workers? Who do you think should have the power in this situation?
  • Demand a workers compensation fund for workers at nearby businesses that are currently closed around the site of the collapse.