Hospitality workers welcome support

Haitian-born hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean joined thousands of union and community activists rallying in Atlantic City Oct. 16 in support of 10,000 striking UNITE HERE casino and hotel workers.

In San Francisco, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards joined the picket line at the Sheraton Palace after thousands of locked-out hotel workers and their allies flooded Union Square for a unity rally Oct. 12.

Bay Area union activists report that the campaign for a boycott of struck and locked out hotels is bearing fruit. Health care giant Kaiser Permanente moved all its meetings from the Argent, and the Bar Association of San Francisco has withdrawn all its meetings until the contract is settled. The Asian Peace Officers Association canceled a dinner at the Fairmount while the first-ever San Francisco international fashion week was also cancelled.

In Los Angeles, hotel management continued to refuse to return to the bargaining table with Local 11. Morena Hernandez, a housekeeper at the West Hollywood Hyatt, says that housekeepers at her hotel, which is often visited by high profile celebrities in the entertainment business, are fighting hard for the contracts of hotel workers across North America to “become stronger to have a voice in the workplace and to be able to control our national and international employers.” Morena says she cleans 16 rooms every day. “Many of us skip our lunch break to finish the work on time.”

On Capitol Hill, Hyatt Regency housekeeper Kim Murray agrees. “This year Hyatt renovated the rooms in the hotel,” she says. “They added a lot of extra tasks like adding more pillows, using heavier duvets, larger sheets on the beds, more shelves to dust, new chrome to clean and polish, especially in the bathrooms, and heavier mattresses to lift.” Murray says management won’t reduce the number of rooms they have to clean, or pay them overtime to finish their work. “We need to be together in 2006 with other hotel workers who work for big companies like Hyatt. Then we’ll have more power to make the hotels take us seriously about issues like workload.”

Contract negotiations continue between UNITE HERE Local 25 and 14 major hotels in Washington.

Besides fighting for reduced work loads, hotel workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington are attempting to protect their health and pension benefits, gain wage hikes, and negotiate a contract with a 2006 expiration in order to line up with other major union hotel cities including New York, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, and Honolulu.

In Atlantic City, the casino and hotel workers in UNITE HERE Local 54 have similar concerns and seek a contract that expires in 2007 along with that of their Las Vegas counterparts.

The authors can be reached at pww@pww.org.