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



An Inspiring Action at La Opinion in Los Angeles

On Friday, July 8th, six high school students that I recruited to help build our movement here in Los Angeles joined summer organizers, Local 11 organizers, and Disney workers to unite against budget cuts to the University of California system and against tax breaks for the Disney Corporation.

Disney Board Member Monica Lozano also sits as a Regent for the University of California system and is the CEO of the newspaper La Opinion. But while she sits on the Regents Board, which cut 23% of its budget this year from the University of California system, Disney is getting generous tax breaks from the same state government. How can Monica Lozano represent students as a UC Regent at the same time she is on the board of Disney?

This issue is personal for all of the high school volunteers, because it affects their access to an affordable higher  education. For Giselle and Jocelyn, two volunteers I recruited from La Puente, California, this issue is particularly personal. Both of them have had to change their plans for college next year because of financial difficulties, and they were not afraid on Friday to raise their voices about this injustice not only on the streets but also to the public media.

On the morning of the Disney day of action, Giselle went of 90.7 FM KPFK’s “Uprising” show to tell her story. Before the interview, she talked with Leigh Shelton, Local 11’s communications director, about having to live at home and commute to Cal Poly Pomona instead of being able to attend her dream school, UC Santa Cruz, because she could not receive any money for financial aid. Giselle joined June Mekker, a long-time Disney worker, to talk on the radio about a new alliance between students and Disney workers, who have been in a contract fight with Disney for three and a half years to win affordable healthcare and a decent wage. You can watch their great interview here.

Then we went to downtown Los Angeles to the offices of the La Opinion newspaper, where Monica Lozano is on the board. We were all surprised at the number of cameras and reporters from radio, TV, and news agencies in at least three different languages. Jocelyn joined Giselle to talk to reporters. By the end of the action, Jocelyn and Giselle had told their stories about why they feel united with Disney workers, and they were quoted on the radio, on the evening news, and in La Opinion itself!

-Samuel, Summer Organizer

While the students gathered, about seven reporters interviewed them to gather reactions on how these cuts would affect the University of California system. Reporters came up to the busy students with cameras and microphones, ready with questions about why we were visiting Monica Lozano. We were excited to inform the press and the public about this issue. However, we wanted to assure that we took this message directly to Monica Lozano. We organized ourselves to enter the building and visit her in her office. As we walked into the building, and headed for the elevators, we were stopped by the security and they told that we were not allowed to enter because it was “private property.” With proud steps, we marched back outside to continue our actions.

-Francisco, Summer Organizer

Later in the day we went to Downtown Disney to pass out leaflets to customers. For the most part the customers took the leaflets, but there were a couple of people that voiced their negative opinions, one man swore at me; others told us to “get a job.” But there were some concerned customers and we even got some contact information.

Then the balloon war started. We started to pass out balloons with the words “Disney is Unfaithful” printed on them. Soon after, the company came out with their own balloons. The company people were standing across from us and they would take our balloons from the kids, pop them, and then give them their own half-deflated Mickey head balloons. Soon there were so many balloons all over Downtown Disney that even hours later, you could see little kids carrying around the “Disney is Unfaithful” and deflated Mickey balloons left over from the scene. After that we gathered up about 10 students and we prepared ourselves for a series of delegations to stores along the downtown that all are retail tenants of Disney. Some store managers were supportive, but some did not like us showing up there. We were all confident and calm and we kept doing delegations to more and more stores until we ran out of time.  I was one of the leaders; I introduced the group and gave a run-down of what we wanted.  Even when the managers didn’t support us I felt like all the delegations were successful because we got our message out.

-Jonathan, Summer Organizer


Check Out Some Media from the Action:

La Opinion – “Unidos en un solo reclamo
KPCC – 89.3 FM – “Protesters object to university tuition increases at La Opinion’s offices
KPFK 90.7 FM – “Uprising: Students and Workers Join Forces Against Disney and UC Corporate Interests


On Wednesday July 13th and Thursday July 14th, one of the high school students I recruited joined five Los Angeles Summer Organizers, three Local 11 organizers, and 16 other student volunteers to unite against budget cuts to the UC system and tax breaks for the Disney Corporation at the UC regents’ board meeting in San Francisco. We continued to get our message out!  – Sam, Summer Organizer, Los Angeles