Sacramento clergy support Hotel Workers Rising

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On Oct.19, four clergymen, representing Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths, tried to deliver a statement called “On Hospitality and Human Dignity” signed by 47 local Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim clerics to the management of the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Sacramento.

“It is a painful irony that those who provide hospitality to travelers and guests in the United States and Canada are so often denied living wages, fair working conditions and basic human dignity by the hotels that employ them,” the statement said in part.

The delegation was told that none of the managers were then available, but was promised a meeting with them the next day.

Outside the hotel, over 300 union hotel workers and their supporters from local unions, community organizations, colleges, high schools and churches marched in a spirited picket line, all wearing red T-shirts and chanting and singing to the accompaniment of drums and noisemakers.

The gathering was nearly twice as large as the previous community picket line at the Sheraton two weeks earlier, and before the demonstration broke up, they chanted, “We’ll be back, we’ll be back,” promising to return in even larger numbers on Nov. 2.

The Unite Here Local 49 “Hotel Workers Rising” campaign to gain better union contracts for hotel employees here has been escalating this fall. A growing coalition of local clergy, community leaders, elected officials and small businessmen have been sending delegations to the Sheraton management to urge raises and better health care and working conditions for their employees.

Another community support event sponsored by the Stonewall Democratic Club featured Cleve Jones, national founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, who is spearheading a national campaign called “Sleep With the Right People” (www.sleepwiththerightpeople.org). The campaign urges a boycott of hotels who are trying to thwart Hotel Workers Rising efforts.

The Sheraton Grand is the largest and newest of the five union hotels in Sacramento. Negotiations have been underway for some months, and the employees have been doing informational leafleting outside the hotel.

“Moses was one of the great historical labor organizers,” Rabbi Reuven Taff of Congregation Mosaic Law told the Oct. 19 gathering, after reporting on the clerical delegation. “While the Israelites toiled, Moses tried to intercede with the Pharaoh, and then led them out of slavery.

“Everyone deserves life and a living wage,” he said.