Freedom to Work Action in the Indianapolis City-County Council

My name is Lucas. I am a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and have volunteered for over a year with our union. I chose to be a part of OBB this summer because I want to become a better organizer and because, as a person with cerebral palsy, every day I face some of the same disrespect and discrimination that working people in our community face.

The highlight of my summer so far was the City-County Council meeting on July 16th here in Indianapolis. We packed the Council chambers with nearly 500 people, a visual “sea of red,” for the Council’s vote on our Freedom to Work ordinance, which would end the blacklisting of subcontracted hotel workers in our city. In Indianapolis many hotels subcontract large amounts of their work to temporary agencies, which pay workers minimum wage and no benefits. In January fourteen housekeepers filed a $10 million class-action lawsuit against the largest temp agency, HSS, and nine hotels for the wage underpayment they and their co-workers had suffered regularly over the last several years. When temp agency workers seek better employment by trying to apply directly to the hotels, they are told that they cannot be hired because they belong to the temp agency. Our city county council voted 16-12 to ban this practice of blacklisting temp agency employees. This was a historic vote in Indianapolis because our council had never passed union-backed legislation in support of hotel workers, and the entire hotel industry came out to oppose us!

I couldn’t even see the testimony from my wheelchair because the room was so crowded. There were more than fifty of us out in the hall outside who could not even enter the room. I am proud of the work our OBB team did to make this event happen because we helped force the politicians in our city as well as the hotel industry to pay attention to the issues facing the lowest-wage hotel workers in our city. I am proud of our city for standing with working people because it shows how much we care about our community. The organizing we do as a union and nights like last Monday give me the strength to face the physical and social challenges of being a disabled person. It is truly inspiring.

Lucas, 2012 Summer Organizer, Indianapolis