New England Joint Board Joins the Training in NYC

You know you had a fun and meaningful day when you’ve been up since 4:30 a.m., travelled through three states, drove an hour home at 10:00 p.m. and still had plenty of energy to tell your roommate all about it.  In late June, members and OBBers from the New England Joint Board went to New York City for a training, and were introduced to campaigns with themes that have implications in the bigger picture of the labor movement.  When learning about the LSG Sky Chef’s campaign, there was a clear message that winning doesn’t happen overnight.  What was also clear is that a global perspective is not only vital, but also makes the campaign that much more intricate and exciting.

 

 

The campaign involving the Marines and the Ultimate Fighting Championship is a unique and bold undertaking.  Being part of the LGBT community and coming from a family background that includes generations of combat veterans makes me proud to be able to contribute to this campaign.  Often times, issues concerning respect for veterans, the LGBT community and women’s rights are put into categories of social justice, while issues of worker’s rights are put into the category of economic justice.  Here we can see that we can’t afford to separate any kind of injustice.  What we can learn from this is that any movement that limits its vision of equality will short change itself from any progress that it can make.

Finally, being in the presence of the team from the headquarters as well as our union’s President was affirming of one of the basic principles of the labor movement.    Regardless of what role you play, your voice matters and we are all a part of the whole.

Daniel, 2012 Summer Organizer, NEJB

Photo to the Left: Back Row (L-R): Ryan Hand (US Marine Corps Veteran, NEJB Local 406), Mike Bolduc (US Army Veteran, NEJB Local 687T), Jose Pichardo (US Navy Veteran, Local 687T), Lester Tuller (President, Local 687T), Larry Dixon (President, Local 406), Al Scafuri (NEJB Business Agent). Front Row (kneeling L-R): Ethan Snow (NEJB Political and Communications Director), Daniel (NEJB OBB intern), Benjamin (NEJB OBB intern), STANDING – Flora Perez (LOA OBB intern, NEJB Local 75), Emma Ross (NEJB Chief of Staff).

Photo to the Right:  (L-R): Ryan Hand (US Marine Corps Veteran, NEJB Local 406), Mike Bolduc (US Army Veteran, NEJB Local 687T), Jose Pichardo (US Navy Veteran, NEJB Local 687T), Lester Tuller (President, NEJB Local 687T), Larry Dixon (President, NEJB Local 406).

*NEJB Local 687T represents workers at Dyno-Nobel in Simsbury, CT manufacturing explosive detonation devices for the US military and commercial use.*NEJB Local 406 represents workers at General Dynamics ATP in Saco, ME manufacturing weapons systems for the US military including the M2 machine gun.

Signature Drive at the NYC Pride Parade

Last Sunday we did a big signature drive at the NYC Pride Parade to get support for the Unfit for the Corps campaign. I hadn’t been out in the field yet and it was good to talk to people and get their reactions to the campaign. For two hours I walked around telling those who would stop to listen about the campaign and asking for their signatures. Some signed because they liked the stickers I was handing out, but many listened and agreed with the cause. A number of people were shocked that the Marine Corps had given so much money to the UFC, one person asking me “how can they do that?” I met a number of people who had family members in the Marines or who were former Marines themselves and all of them seemed excited to sign the petition. All in all we ended up getting almost 2,000 signatures for the day, which felt like a really good number. We all were feeling pretty accomplished, if also a bit sunburned.
-Will, 2012 OBB Summer Research Intern, New Yotk
Photo to the Left: UNITE HERE Staff and members joined for the big signature drive at the NYC Pride Parade.
Photo to the Right: The UNITE HERE Local 100 table at the NYC Pride Parade.

Read similar stories from OBBers during Pride Week in Seattle and Chicago!

Update: Hotel room attendant, UNITE HERE leader newest member of Providence City Council

Carmen Castillo at a protest with students and her coworker Chris Cook.

After participating in the Organizing Beyond Barriers program in New York City this past summer, I was certain that I wanted to continue working with UNITE HERE on economic justice issues.  When I arrived at school, however, classes and other activities made it easy to lose sight of my initial desires.  About a month into school though, I learned of an exciting political campaign in which a UNITE HERE leader was involved.  A Local 217 member was attempting to be elected as the first housekeeper ever elected to the Providence City Council.  This housekeeper was named Carmen Castillo.

Carmen Castillo has been a dedicated housekeeper at the Westin for seventeen years.  There, she has fearlessly led her coworkers in the fight against the injustices of hotel management.  At one point, the Westin implemented changes in their management policies that resulted in unsubstantiated disciplinary write-ups for members of the housekeeping staff. Carmen Castillo, nevertheless, would not accept this treatment.  She led a delegation of workers to end this behavior.  When Carmen and the other workers attempted to talk to management, they were told that no one was available for a discussion.  Despite this obstacle Carmen was unfazed.  Not only did she say they would wait until they were able to speak to the appropriate person, but she also demanded an air-conditioned room in which to wait.  In the end, Carmen’s determination and perseverance put an end to the this instance of management disrespect at this Westin.

Stories like these are what motivated me to leave my warm bed at 7:00 am on Saturday mornings to knock on doors for Carmen.   I loved walking around a neighborhood that was unlike my university campus and getting people excited about a candidate who I believed could really make a difference.  I was also inspired by the possibility that I could actually have an effect on a community separate from that of Brown.  Carmen won the primary in October by only 46 votes.  This outcome means that every person to whom I talked and convinced that Carmen was the best candidate truly had an effect on the election.  I was thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking campaign and amazed to see students, organizers and members of the union unite in their support for Carmen and their belief that with a rank-and-file worker in the City Council there could be significant social change in Providence.

By Erika Inwald

Victories in University Food Service: “We Discovered How Powerful We Really Were”

Great news from Northwestern and Harvard!

Will reports from Chicago:

“After 8 months of organizing and fighting, workers here at Northwestern won an amazing contract.

“After several negotiating sessions, including a marathon pair of sessions that totaled 24 hours over two days, workers on the negotiating committee finalized a deal that includes a new wage floor of $10.00 per hour on day one, up from $8.40, a combined raise of $2.30 over the four year contract, amazing protection for immigrant workers, and free health care for every full-time worker by the end of the contract.

“When students and workers started organizing together in January, the contract seemed impossibly far away. For many of us, it was our first real contract fight. As we dug ourselves into the work, however, the bonds between us tightened and we discovered how powerful we really were. This victory has changed the lives of both the workers and the students at Northwestern, and it has energized everyone here to fight harder to keep the movement rolling.”

In Boston, 550 members of Local 26 settled a groundbreaking contract with Harvard University. In their contract campaign, they called on Harvard to provide sustainable food and create sustainable jobs. Real earnings had fallen over the last several years as Harvard cut back the number of hours worked.

Dining hall workers partnered with Harvard students who organized delegations, participated in demonstrations, sat on the bargaining committee, and even leafleted Harvard president Drew Faust. Workers from Local 35 at Yale came to Harvard to attend rallies and participate in contract negotiations. As part of the contract settlement, Harvard agreed to create a joint committee with the union to adopt best practices for environmentally responsible food sourcing and preparation. Harvard also agreed to give Local 26 members priority hiring for jobs during the summer and winter recess, as well as language requiring that Local 26 members be offered work, including overtime, before temporary jobs can be assigned. Other key components to the ground-breaking contract included better protections for immigrant workers, better sick day coverage, seniority that workers carry with them throughout Harvard departments, significant wage increases, and a preservation of the quality health insurance with no increased payment by workers.”

Boston Summer Organizer Neal describes his experience fighting for victory at Harvard:

“Workers, students and allies from across New England had a lot to celebrate last week when the 550 dining hall workers at Harvard University settled a new contract. The September victory was won through worker organization and participation, as well as the activity of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) at Harvard and the support of other unions across Boston and the workers from Local 35 at Yale.

“The new contract increases wages and protects workers’ excellent health care benefits. It also commits Harvard to hiring dining hall workers for summer jobs, so that those workers will now have an income throughout the year, rather than just while school is in session. The most innovative part of the contract establishes a joint worker-management committee which will put Harvard on the path to a more systematic commitment to serving sustainable food – food that will be bought locally and prepared at Harvard. This is a significant victory for workers who know that this will mean more full-time work in the future and who want to be cooking high quality meals. It is also a victory for the student and environmental movements at Harvard, which have long sought ways to reduce our university’s environmental impact. Together, worker and student power won the day.

“As a student, I was particularly proud to see months of worker-student cooperation culminate in such a good contract, which won the overwhelming support of the union membership. I have been a member of SLAM for four years, and this past year was definitely the most active and exciting year of them all. We organized large contingents to march in several parades alongside our union allies, and also joined in pickets and protests. Three of our members even sat on the bargaining committee throughout the negotiations. During the summer, teams of students and union organizers went out to workers’ homes to talk about the fight for a new contract. Many thanks are owed to the workers and organizers who invited us to join in this historic fight, and found really substantial ways for us to make an impact on the fight.

“We learned a lot, and we won. Who could ask for more?”

Food Sustainability on Campus

On July 15th Organizing Beyond Barriers interns from eight different east coast cities gathered in New Haven for an inspiring day of training and brainstorming on the connection between the labor and sustainable food movements.

 

First, we heard the facts. Researchers from UNITE HERE laid out the basics of the college food industry and the sustainable food movement. Afterwards, when we broke into groups, we discussed the strong connection between workers’ rights and sustainable food. Even though it seemed pretty obvious to us, it’s clear that these two movements have not been working together–in most places.

Yale is an exception. The most inspiring part of the training came after a delicious lunch in Yale’s Silliman dining hall, where we feasted on sustainably farmed pulled pork and cauliflower salad. This is when we heard from the dining hall workers about how their fight for better jobs worked hand-in-hand with the fight for better, sustainable food at Yale.

Even though I graduated from Yale just a couple months ago, I had never heard the story of how sustainable food came to campus.  It was truly inspiring to hear how the strength of the workers in Local 35, who have sustained strike after strike, played a huge role in improving the quality of food on campus. You can’t make thousands of sustainable, fresh cooked meals every day with a corporate approach based on minimal, low-wage staffing and highly processed ingredients. There’s still work to be done in improving both working conditions and quality of food at Yale, and members of Local 35 are continually fighting to do so.

Everyone left the day feeling like we had a lot of work ahead of us, but we also learned that struggle for sustainable food and worker’s rights could work together with real results. And a shout-out to SO Rachel Payne for facilitating a great day.

-Anna, Summer Organizer, New Haven

 

Summer Organizers from all of California also engaged in a Sustainable Food Training, see photos below!

 

 

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