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Essential Service Workers Take Action Launching Series of Strikes Beginning Monday; 15 Years Since Hurricane Katrina, A Look Back at Swimming Upstream


Essential Service Workers Take Action Launching Series of Strikes Beginning Monday; Join Elena the Essential Worker

These are challenging times for essential service workers, workers of color, and womxn-identifying workers and mothers especially. We write today to ask for your support for these frontline workers. Tipped service workers, including servers, bartenders, delivery workers, and more, are starting a series of monthly strikes this coming Monday, August 31, demanding a full minimum wage with tips on top, at a time when tips are down 50-75%. These workers’ subminimum wages have caused a horrific experience for them during this pandemic, as has also been the case for so many other essential workers in other sectors.

At Monday’s rally, we will be introducing Elena the Essential Worker, whom we hope can stand on the shoulders of Rosie the Riveter to serve as a new face in the fight for economic, racial, and gender justice!

Read Elena’s biography to learn more about this powerful piece of artwork by Paul Leibow. Elena will measure 24 ft high and be dressed as service in a visual representation of the fight for One Fair Wage. She will make her world debut at worker strike locations this coming Monday in New York and Chicago. From there, Elena the Essential will hit the road and make appearances in Boston, Philadelphia, D.C. and Orlando (5-6 different art pieces).

We share Elena’s ‘Coming Out’ on the heels of a historic strike vote by tipped service workers on August 24, 2020. With a unanimous vote, service workers who have been organizing and mobilizing for change all over the country will take to the streets on Monday, August 31st for a one-day strike in New York and Chicago in solidarity with tipped service workers in their cities and all over the country who have to rely on tips to make ends meet. The strikes will be growing to more cities -- at least to Boston, Philadelphia, D.C. and Orlando -- at the end of September, and then again at the end of each month until we win One Fair Wage -- a full minimum wage with tips on top.

Can you come see Elena IRL and join striking service workers in a socially-distant action & picket line in solidarity? If so, please register here!

If you can’t be with us, we’d greatly appreciate it if you could use this Social Media Tool to share this timely solidarity alert on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also make your voice heard by signing the petition at and share it with your friends!

Thank you for supporting this important movement for social, racial and economic justice for all! #1FairWage #NoWorkerLeftBehind #1BillionRising #FightDontStarve

In Solidarity,
Saru Jayaraman, One Fair Wage President & Co-Founder
& V (formerly Eve Ensler), One Billion Rising Founder

15 Years Since Hurricane Katrina,
A Look Back at Swimming Upstream

Photos: Paula Allen for V-Day

This week is the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As the anniversary approaches – and a new storm is approaching the coast of Louisiana and Texas – we remember those we lost and those whose lives were changed fifteen years ago and we celebrate the activists in New Orleans and the Gulf South whose work to rebuild is ongoing, whose work to address the devastating impact of climate change continues.

We remember the 30,000 activists, survivors and artists who converged in New Orleans in 2008 for V-Day's 10th anniversary celebration V TO THE TENTH including the premiere performance of SWIMMING UPSTREAM in the Superdome.

16 New Orleans women crafted Swimming Upstream - a powerful theatrical production that tells the raw and soulful stories of women who lived through Hurricanes Rita and Katrina with grace, rage and great resiliency, punctuated by a flair for storytelling, humor and music that comes from being New Orleanian.

The performance featured Troi Bechet, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Anne-Liese Juge Fox, Briceshanay Gresham, Karen-kaia Livers, and guest performers Shirley Knight, Anna Deavere Smith, and Kerry Washington. We honor Shirley Knight, who passed away this Spring. Shirley, a dear friend of the V-Day movement, lent her talents to many V-Day artistic productions over the years, in support of our work to end violence against all women and girls.

Written by Carol Bebelle, Troi Bechet, Reverend Lois Dejean, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Anne-Liese Juge Fox, Adella Gautier, Briceshanay Gresham, Herreast Harrison, Karen-kaia Livers, Tommye Myrick, Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Kathy Randels, Dollie Rivas, Dina Roudeze, Karel Sloane-Boekbinder, Carol Sutton. Created in a process facilitated by V-Day Founder/playwright/activist V (formerly Eve Ensler) and Carol Bebelle, (then) Executive Director and Co-founder of Ashé Cultural Arts Center, the play was produced by V-Day and Ashé Cultural Arts Center with Support from Open Society Foundation.

  • "If art is therapeutic, Swimming Upstream is a breakthrough." - Times Picayune
  • "In many ways the work resembles an engaging church event – complete with gospel songs, testimonies and hand-clapping redemption." - Variety
  • "Swimming UpStream .... is the poetic equivalent of a breached levee. What begins as a flood of raw human emotion becomes a source of healing, transcendence and new beginnings." - The Atlanta Journal Constitution