at HEI. They organized and participated in actions in Irvine, California; Crystal City, Virginia; and San Francisco. Baltimore-based Summer Organizer Monica, who played a key role in the action at the Sheraton-Crystal City, and Los Angeles-based Mariela, who was in a similar role in the action at Embassy Suites-Irvine, relate their experiences.
Last Thursday, over seventy-five people marched in solidarity outside the Crystal City Sheraton in northern Virginia. Although each picket line I have participated in has been excitingly powerful, this particular action had me demanding justice more loudly than ever before.
Throughout the past few weeks, myself and the rest of the D.C. team have put forth all of our energy to make this a successful national day of action. From phone banking hundreds of people to late-night house visits to keep the workers optimistic in spite of the ever-so-common HEI scaring tactics, we were determined to spread awareness and pump-up the action to its fullest potential.
It was amazing to see how many workers stepped up for this big event. I had given a survey to a particular banquet waiter the week before, and was astonished at the full-time workload he was responsible for in the hotel, though he was only a part-time worker. The survey dug up stories that hadn’t passed through his mind in a while, which ultimately made him realize how important this fight really was to him. He requested to be off the day of the action and management denied him, but he still made a commitment to join us during his only break- and was louder and prouder than I had ever seen him.
And he was not the only one. Along with the workers who stepped up and joined picket line, there were several more workers making their own kind of noise inside the hotel by proudly wearing their union button. Some workers wore their union button for the first time ever. It was so awesome to see so many workers who had not been as active in the past all stepping up to the fight as one, powerful force.For me, personally, the confident smiles of the workers when they saw (and most definitely heard) the support of fellow coworkers, organizers, and students was more than worth every second of hard work I put into the planning process. The personal connections I have made with the hotel workers over the last five weeks generated the deep, rewarding impact that has been constantly inspiring me since the start of the first chant.
The difference we can make for the lives of the workers and their families is such an amazing opportunity; actions such as last Thursday’s picket line serve as constant reminders that we are making that difference. ¡En solidaridad!
Summer Organizers in Irvine have a photo journal of their action in Irvine, an action reported on in a news article linked below:
Guests at the Embassy Suites Irvine had a rude awakening July 28st as workers and students gallantly picketed together in front of the hotel.
The highlight of the day for me came at what would have been lunchtime for a lot of the workers when a full on demonstration of the people power and solidarity took center-stage. At 11:45 handsomely dressed students dropped banners (that I had the honor of helping make) inside the hotel. They displayed the phrases “Hotel Workers Rising” and “Fitted Sheets Now” for a full 15 minutes as a clergy and worker delegated management. As this visual act of resistance ended, a rally began to form at the front of the hotel. I had the honor of speaking in front of the crowd of students and workers.
I didn’t want the day to end without letting the many housekeepers, dishwashers and laundry workers know how much their experiences have impacted me and my organizing. For many years I’ve watched my parents suffer silently in low wage exploitative jobs. But in these workers at this hotel not only did I see my parents struggle reflected, I also saw courage and strength – a glow and a smile that come only from standing up for dignity and respect. This gave me energy to pick up that bullhorn again and let every HEI customer know that as long as HEI is abusing and disrespecting workers we are going to keep fighting. We are going to kick HEI off of our campuses and we are going to demand fitted sheets and proper tools now, in California and everywhere.
– Mariela, Summer Organizer, Los Angeles