FULLABALOO: Fraternity pledges strike, unionize in preparation for Mardi Gras 2024

LaToilet Cansmell, not a groupie

Fraternity pledges are forced to paint banners and houses, build makeshift bars and produce rave-style light shows during Mardi Gras. They’ve had enough — and the Fullabaloo is tracking the developments of the historic pledge strike. (Ryan Rainbolt)

This article is entirely satire. All information and interviews below are fictional and for entertainment purposes only.

“Someone once said … uhhhh  … with a lotta power comes a lotta responsibility. I like power, but I hate responsibility,” Jared from Sigma Alpine Epsilon fraternity said.

Fraternity pledges nationwide are subject to unpaid physical labor and emotional trauma at the hands of their brothers and their brotherhoods. But nowhere else — other than Tulane University — are pledges forced to paint banners and houses, build makeshift bars and produce rave-style light shows. 

Pledges at other colleges and universities, sure, undergo hazing and menial labor. But, do they have to sleep on neutral ground for days to claim parade spots? Drive U-Haul trucks filled with drunk, drugged up college students from Broadway Street to St. Charles Avenue and table for days to collect thousands in wristband revenue? 

The answer: no. It’s only the audacious — only at Tulane. 

While floats and their throws, police officers and their horses and marching bands and their majorettes constitute the backbone of New Orleans’ celebration, fraternity pledges are the unsung heroes of Tulane’s weeklong bender.

Plebeian Tulane students spend the weeks before Mardi Gras buying alcohol and planning their outfits. Some even pay their friends to hold their arms behind them for extended periods of time, hoping to stretch their limbs out and maximize their chances of catching a Muses shoe. For most, it’s all fun and games. 

But not for the pledges.

Tulane fraternity members garnered local attention for street-sleeping prior to Mardi Gras parades. Pledges are known to camp out in shifts for up to a week before Thursday’s parades. 

“Dude, it’s freezing. I’m from Miami so roughing it in a sleeping bag in 50 degree weather was literally hell. And they wouldn’t even let me bring beer. But they did let me take the pillowcase from my navy sheet set,” Mike from Zootma Psi fraternity said.

“My hands got super dry. Good thing I always keep lotion on me,” Mike said. 

Pledges, better described as Renaissance men, also express their artistic fortitude leading up to Mardi Gras. Fraternity houses — once drab and boring — turn into purple, green and yellow palaces, and no stone is left untouched.

“They expected me to remember the order of the colors, ok?” John from Sigma Phi Espionage fraternity said. 

“As if I have enough brain cells for that, especially after all the womps. I begged them to let me label the bricks on the front of the house so I didn’t mess it all up: ‘P’ for purple, ‘G’ for green, ‘Y’ for yellow. I finally got it right after hours of screwing it up.”

Many pledges describe the driving as the worst part. Pledges drive to secure hundreds of cases of beer. They drive to pick up U-Hauls. They drive to and from parade spots, on call for hours each night — day after day after day.

“What’s even worse is that I had to learn how to drive. I’m from New York, so I’m like, why can’t I just call my freaking driver and get him to do it? My parents would pay for it I swear, and that’s what I told the pledgemaster. But he wouldn’t let me, and they held me in the basement for like two whole hours and drilled the rules of the road in my brain. I had to take a shot every time I got one wrong. I was hammered,” Cole from Zeta Beta Toe said.

The only positive outcome of the entire week is that the pledges grow closer to their fellow pledge class. They’re all in it together, bonded by their servitude. 

Will, a member of Sigma Chump, said, “At one point, I realized that it’s us against them. The pledges forced into labor by the brothers. And we get nothing out of it either. It’s like … alienating.”

The pledges of Sigma Chump decided to take initiative. They went on strike. And the move sent the Zootma Psi brothers into chaos. Angered and upset, the brothers told the pledges that hell week would come early. But the pledges wouldn’t budge. They knew that without them, next year’s Mardi Gras would be boozeless and b-tchless. Alix Earle would never show face at their frat house again.

“Ya know, I realized that what we do during Mardi Gras is basically slavery. And this is America. So once that kicked in, I realized we had to do something,” Will said.

Unsurprisingly, the Sigma Chump strike had somewhat of a domino effect on the pledge classes in other fraternities. Soon after, the pledges of all fraternities on campus — with the exception of Kappa Apple Order — joined in the movement and formed a union.

Together, the pledges made a list of demands enumerated in a memo that was sent to all executive boards of all Tulane fraternities.

The memo reads: 

“The history of all hitherto existing fraternities is a history of struggle between pledges and brothers — the oppressed and the oppressor. We, the pledges of the world, seeking to reap the benefits of our Mardi Gras labor, therefore outline a list of demands. When they are met, we will return to work and the good times will continue to roll.

  1. We request a beer upgrade. No longer will we wince at Natty Lite and Pabst Blue Ribbon. We will revel in Michelob Ultra.
  2. We require personalized U-Haul trucks to recognize our humanity and individuality. Brothers must provide pledges with automobile decals, personalized with each of our given nicknames. 
  3. We seek improved working conditions, particularly while driving. As such, we request those fluffy steering wheel covers and comfys to wear while driving.
  4. Rather than low-class, polyester fanny packs, we will only wear Lululemon belt bags embossed with our fraternity’s letters.
  5. We require free protein shakes as sustenance during long driving shifts.
  6. We demand endless supplies of graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate. We like s’mores, and we’d like to enjoy them while camping out on the neutral ground.
  7. We also demand that over the duration of the spring semester, each one of the brothers calls each of the pledges “cool” in public. 
  8. Every member of each fraternity must like every message the pledges send in our fraternity/sorority GroupMe’s. Our frat texts go unnoticed, and we deserve recognition for our prose.
  9. On one instance of each pledge’s choosing, a brother must personally endorse each pledge as “the boy” to an individual of the pledge’s choosing.
  10. Veja frat shoes.
  11. All pledges will be reimbursed with Boot/Palms line passes.”

Quite a noble effort indeed. Are Tulane’s pledges developing, dare I say, a class consciousness? 

The Fullabaloo will continue to follow the strike and unionizing efforts as they unfold. 

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