Hotel workers check in on struggle nationwide

NEW YORK — Unite Here’s nationwide “Hotel Workers Rising” campaign picked up wins in Chicago, San Francisco and Monterey, Calif., in late September, the union reported here recently.

In a separate triumph, Unite Here Local 5 members ended a three and a half year boycott of the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu, Hawaii, with a new contract with “excellent wages and benefits,” Aug. 1, the union said.

Meanwhile almost 3,000 hotel workers and supporters rallied and 300 were arrested during a peaceful sit-in on the main hotel boulevard just outside the Los Angeles Airport. Workers at the airport hotels, many of them immigrants, want to organize the 13 hotels. They earn 20 percent less than their unionized colleagues who work for the same hotel chains downtown.

“The quality of immigrant workers’ lives is dependent on their jobs,” said Maria Elena Durazo, secretary treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor shortly before her arrest. “Do they earn a living wage? Are they in a safe workplace? Are they treated with respect? Can they take their children to the doctor? That is what these workers, and all of us here today, are fighting for,” she concluded.

Hotel Workers Rising, launched more than a year ago, aims to get better contracts from the three top hotel chains — Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood — for workers at hotels in the leading convention cities and to bring unrepresented workers into the union through card-check recognition at unorganized hotels.

With joint action and common contract expiration dates, the campaign was designed to force the hotel chains to negotiate with Unite Here on behalf of all their hotels, rather than bargaining local by local and playing off city versus city.

The wins were:

• In Chicago, Local 1 agreed in mid-September with Tishman Hotels, which owns the Sheraton Chicago, and Starwood, which owns five downtown hotels. The pacts cover at least 900 workers. “Me-too” agreements signed previously with other hotels — extending the terms of the latest contracts to their workers — cover another 7,000, local President Henry Tamarin said. Local 1 previously signed pacts with Hilton and Hyatt. All the contracts feature substantial raises.

• In San Francisco, community pressure pushed 13 of the big convention hotels to sign a five-year contract, with two years retroactive and three years forward, Local 2 said. Last year, hotel owners briefly locked out their workers, but then returned to the table when Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) threatened to pull the city’s business and tell the whole country why. The pact gives higher wages, better pensions, better civil rights language and full health care benefits to more than 4,200 Unite Here members. It also includes card-check recognition for all future Multi-Employer Group hotels in San Francisco and in San Mateo County.

• The Monterey pact, involving two Hyatt hotels and Local 483, gives wage increases to non-tipped workers, increases health and welfare benefits and gives them a pension increase.

— Press Associates, Inc.