EMERYVILLE, Calif. - Workers at the Woodfin Suites hotel here, and the supporters who stood with them in a years-long fight for justice, are rejoicing this week after the hotel, the workers, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) and Unite Here Local 2850 announced an agreement settling the workers' claims and upholding the city's living wage ordinance.
"We are very proud to have fought for living wages and immigrant rights, and we are very happy with this agreement," said Luz, a worker leader. "To all who have supported us during these four years: thank you so much!"
A celebration is planned later this fall.
EBASE spokesperson Brooke Anderson told the World that under the settlement, dozens of workers employed by the Woodfin in 2006 are submitting claim forms to share in a $125,000 fund to compensate for wages the hotel failed to pay under the living wage ordinance. The agreement also ends the years-long boycott and protests by the workers' supporters, and ends legal challenges to the ordinance.
Anderson called the settlement and the end of the lawsuits "a huge and significant victory" that upholds "a groundbreaking, powerful law that has drastically raised wages and decreased workloads for hundreds of housekeepers already" and will benefit thousands of workers in the future.
The workers' struggle started after Emeryville passed Measure C, a city living wage ordinance, in November 2005. The measure also set workload standards for hotel housekeepers and required they be paid time-and-a-half when workloads exceed the limit.
When the largely immigrant workers fought back against the hotel's continued assignment of excessive workloads, the Woodfin harassed and intimidated them, including firing a dozen workers on the pretext of Social Security no-match letters. Workers and their supporters fought back, demanding decent treatment and an end to employers' use of immigration law to deny them the right to uphold labor standards.
In August 2007 the City Council ordered the Woodfin to pay the back wages, and when the hotel refused, the case went to court.
Photo: A 2008 demonstration in front of the Woodfin Suites hotel. PW/Marilyn Bechtel