Philadelphia – Fast for Safe Schools

“In the beginning of June the School District of Philadelphia mailed over 3000 layoff notices. Out of that, 1,202 were for Student Safety Staff (members of Local 634), who are an essential part of the schools. This layoff was district-wide, and with this decision the schools would be completely unsafe for the children and the few remaining staff members.

On June 11, 2013, I was asked by the leaders of Local 634 to be a part of a drastic move to change the course of the projected plans of the school district for the upcoming school year. The move was to fast and pray for two weeks eating no food and drinking only water and resting in the basement of a church. It was not a hard decision for me to make because it was for the children and I wanted to do whatever it took to make a change.

Through the mighty action of the fast, the layoffs and current unsafe school situation went from only being a passing conversation among workers and family members perhaps, to gaining nationwide and international recognition. Most of all, the Governor changed his course of action from giving nearing nothing to fill the 330 million dollar deficit, to finding 140 million dollars and the recognition that there will be a new priority set for the Philadelphia school system in the future. The 140 million dollars is not enough to satisfy the current budget needs, however it is a start in the right direction to educate our children rather than to prepare them for failure and life of incarceration.”

– Marcia Teagle, School Cafeteria Worker, UNITE HERE Local 634 Member

New Haven Summer Organizers Sarah, Latoya, Eshe, and Mark went to Philadelphia with a delegation of local union and community leaders to join the Fast for Safe Schools. New Haven Summer Organizers Max and Gabe (not pictured) joined the fasters’ support team and stayed in Philadelphia for the duration.

 

“Spending time with the fasters in Philly further affirmed for me what organizing always seems to be teaching us: that our connections to each other, to some higher purpose, even to God—when channeled right—can be powerful enough to get even the strongest governments and companies to bend, and acknowledge that the people are a powerful force they must answer to in some way.”

– Eshe, Summer Organizer, New Haven

 

 

 

A Day of Action at HEI

IrvineSummer Organizers from coast-to-coast had an exciting week of actions

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.

Monica, Baltimore:

Crystal City

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:

Link: Hotel union stages demonstration in Irvine

Mariela, Irvine:

Guests at the Embassy Suites Irvine had a rude awakening July 28st as workers and students gallantly picketed together in front of the hotel.

Throughout the last few weeks of my internship at UNITE HERE Local 11, I have gotten to know many of the workers at this HEI managed hotel. My anger towards the management that overworks and disrespects workers on a daily basis found an outlet at this all-day action. There were only short breaks throughout the day when I did not hold a bullhorn in one hand and a bottle of water in the other chanting “Up with the workers!” and “Boycott HEI!”


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

 

Irvine

LSG SkyChefs Rally: “Enough is Enough!”

Bright and early on July 14th, UNITE HERE Local 7 members, volunteers, and interns gathered in front of the office in Baltimore to board a bus headed for New York.

We were taking a trip to support more than 6,000 airline catering workers working in facilities across the country. These workers have been bargaining a contract for a year and half with airline caterer SkyChefs, and Lufthansa is the caterer’s parent company. Our mission: meet up at Lufthansa’s New York headquarters and send a strong, simple message from SkyChefs workers and supporters: “Settle a Contract Now!”

The day before our trip, our members signed banners in preparation for the event. This way, workers in New York and across the nation would know that Local 7 members in Baltimore were with them all the way! We loaded the banners, drums, and bullhorn and began our trip.

Several hours later, we arrived and mingled with our sisters and brothers in the struggle. There were workers from all over the country – hundreds of people were at the rally! We learned about the SkyChefs workers’ fight and were able to share in the victories of our campaigns.

We marched from Islanders Arena chanting as supporters drove by honking in solidarity. As we arrived at the Lufthansa headquarters, forming a line a quarter mile long, Lufthansa executives watched with anxious eyes. Chanting in unison, our presence was felt as passing vehicles cheered us on.

We continued to the park across the street in plain sight of the Lufthansa executives and joined two busloads of SkyChefs workers. We got to hear their stories of the injustices they are facing in their struggle against the bosses. Listening to their speeches, we were reminded that we have so much in common in our respective workplaces.

After the inspirational speeches of SkyChefs workers from all across the nation, we broke into the chant “We’ll Be Back!” and returned to our respective cities to share our New York experience with our own locals. Rallying together with our brothers and sisters across UNITE HERE was such an incredible reminder that their fight is our fight, and we have to keep supporting one another. We arrived in Baltimore with a renewed energy and motivation to continue to organize against the boss.

Victory!

– Summer Organizers, Baltimore