Emeryville workers demand a fair contract: ‘One Job Should Be Enough!’
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

EMERYVILLE, Calif. – Guests at the Hyatt House Hotel here got an early wakeup call Sept. 27, as the hotel’s workers were joined by union and community allies for a lively 6 a.m. picket line.

As the sun rose over their workplace, dozens of housekeepers and other hotel workers – members of UNITE HERE! Local 2850 – were warning their management that they might, indeed, carry out the strike they authorized by a vote of 100 percent on Sept. 13.

The workers are demanding a livable wage, real job security and affordable health care. But, they say, Hyatt House management proposes to pay them just 20 cents more than the minimum wage and isn’t willing to pay to keep up with the rapidly rising cost of health care, which could potentially leave the workers paying hundreds of dollars more per month for health coverage.

Delmy Savanocasso, a housekeeper at the Hyatt House for the last seven years, said she and her co-workers – many of them single mothers – are feeling increasingly stressed as area rents soar and wages remain low.

Another big problem, she said, “is that we’re overloaded with work, and management continues to increase our workloads,” resulting in more and more job-related injuries. She and her co-workers are calling on management to provide equipment they need to work more safely.

The union has always made sure the workers have good health coverage, Savanocasso said, but now management’s reluctance to pay for rising health care costs could affect workers even more than its reluctance to raise wages.

A year ago, Marriott Hotel workers waged a campaign across the country, declaring that One Job Should Be Enough! The workers, including those in the San Francisco Bay Area, won a groundbreaking deal including substantial wage increases, protection against workplace harassment, and preservation of quality family health insurance at a cost to employees of just $25 per month for families, and $10 for individuals.

In neighboring Oakland, Claremont Hotel workers won a similar contract this summer.

The Hyatt House workers are demanding that their owner, RLJ Lodging Trust, agree to a similar contract. Raising a similar demand are workers at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn, also owned by RLJ Lodging Trust. They, too, have unanimously authorized a strike, and they recently held their own early-bird picket.

Workers at both local hotels are currently paid about $5 less per hour than the Marriott or Claremont workers.

Marilyn Bechtel/PW

The union says that with living costs in the Bay Area continuing to rise, more and more workers are having to move farther away from their jobs to make ends meet, with some now facing commutes of more than an hour.

Highlighting the Emeryville community’s support for the hotel workers, Mayor Ally Medina and City Councilmember Scott Donohue joined the workers’ picket line.

“Emeryville is a progressive city that has passed some of the country’s most progressive labor laws and employee protections” including the country’s highest minimum wage, Medina said. “We believe that as a nation, we don’t have strong enough worker protections; that’s why we’re trying to step up and lead.”

“If there is anything Councilmember Donohue and I can do to add political support for these workers who are being unfairly treated, that’s why we’re out here, to support them getting a fair wage.”

Emeryville’s minimum wage is currently $16.30 an hour.

UNITE HERE! represents over 270,000 members working in the hotel, gaming, food service and airport industries across the United States and Canada.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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