DoubleTree Strike in San Jose

Hi, my name is Daniel, I’m a bell person at the Doubletree in San Jose. I’ve been working at the DT for a year and a half.  The reason I participated in a four-daystrike is because I’m fighting for a better future. We’ve been in negotiations for about a year and the corporation is not giving us what we deserve. The company makes millions of dollars every year and we are on strike for what we need to support our families and secure our future. I will be an intern this summer with the OBB program 2012 and I want you all to know that you have the right to fight for what you deserve; you can unionize, gather with your friends and co-workers, and fight for what you need.

– Daniel, 2012 Summer Organizer, San Jose

Photo to the Right: Daniel, Summer Organizer in San Jose, leading the strike at the DoubleTree.

Next Up Young Workers Summit

The AFL-CIO’s Next Up Young Workers Summit was a truly inspiring and exciting weekend! As a college student coming off of my summer with UNITE HERE Local 11 in Los Angeles, it was wonderful to once again be surrounded by people extremely passionate about the labor movement, workers’ rights and economic justice issues. Between the workshops, networking, story sharing and exploring downtown Minneapolis there was little time for thinking about anything other than the changes we need to make so that there is justice for the hardworking people who make this country run.

By far, my favorite part of the conference was being a part of the UNITE HERE delegation. The other OBBs, UNITE HERE staff and UNITE HERE workers weren’t afraid to ask the tough questions and take the lead in workshops, at the microphone and during the actions. This showed me that UNITE HERE is the union leading the way in the national labor movement. UNITE HERE workers and organizers are doing the hard, on the ground, day-to-day organizing it takes to build, strengthen, and expand the movement. And many of those people doing that important work are the young ones I met at the conference.

The conference left me excited and ready to share what I learned with others who might not know much about the labor movement. I’m inspired to maintain the connections I made and the momentum I gained to pursue economic justice campaigns both on and off campus.

Young worker leaders are changing this country for the better. Get ready because they are revitalizing and reenergizing the labor movement!

-Josephine, 2011 Summer Organizer

Summer Reflections from Los Angeles

In addition to interning with UNITE HERE Local 11, I am also interning this summer with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. CLUE is an interfaith non-profit that engages clergy across Los Angeles to walk with workers and their families in their struggle for dignity and respect in the workplace.

While UNITE HERE and CLUE are allies in the struggle for workers’ rights, they deal with different aspects of the same movement. CLUE brings clergy into the fight for economic justice because faith leaders are able to use their moral authority to speak truth to power. While CLUE has many campaigns focused on different workers in the city, including carwash workers, port truck drivers, and hotel workers, I have been working closely on the grocery workers’ campaign.

Currently grocery workers in Southern California have been without a contract for five months and despite negotiations, they are preparing for a strike.  CLUE understands that a strike would affect not only the 65,000 grocery workers, but also affect collectively their 300,000 family members.

So as not to repeat the devastating strike and lock-out of 2003, CLUE is organizing congregations across the city to Adopt a Store. This campaign involves congregations adopting a supermarket in their area, writing a letter of support for the workers and delivering that letter to the store’s management in a delegation. Last week the CLUE interns did a delegation to an Albertson’s in South LA. It was empowering to let the manager know that as members of the community we support the workers in this time of uncertainty.

Being exposed to both union organizing and faith-based organizing has shown me there many aspects to the fight for social and economic justice. Interning with UNITE HERE and CLUE has taught me that the movement to bring respect, dignity and justice to all workers across this country needs the involvement not only of the workers and the union, but also of students and clergy of all faiths.

-Josie, Summer Organizer, Los Angeles

My name is Risa, and I am the communications intern at UNITE HERE Local 11 this summer. Before June of this year, I had no experience at a labor union, and only a dim understanding of the labor movement in this country.

I’m happy to say I can no longer say the same. Some of the most valuable experiences I’ve had this summer were the weekly trainings, which have put the labor movement in a larger context for me. The movement is not just about union organizing – it is about immigrants’ rights. It is about gender and sexual equality. It is about sustainable food and agricultural practices. UNITE HERE strives to be a union that takes all these social issues into account.

The labor movement does not exist in a vacuum, and it requires strength and support from many other movements to maintain its momentum and garner more advocates. The weekly trainings on the various issues surrounding the labor movement invite discussion from their participants, which is often heated and passionate, but never vitriolic. We have found ways to discuss even the most polarizing issues (gay marriage, for example, or illegal immigration) in a friendly and open environment. 

We may all work for the same union, but many of the summer organizers, interns, full-time union members, and field organizers do not share the same views on these topics, and we often come from extremely different backgrounds. But I think there is valuable insight to be gained on both sides when, say, an East Coast trust-funder engages in meaningful conversation with a Salvadoran immigrant who is holding down two jobs. 

Along with our backgrounds and beliefs, we all have different levels of education on the topics we are discussing. In our first training, what may have seemed like a dumbed down run-through of the labor movement’s history to a seasoned UNITE HERE veteran was extremely informative to me, a relative newcomer. However, having just completed one of my favorite college history classes, The History of Oil and World Power, I was able to drop some knowledge on the sustainable foods training group today when the discussion turned to the amount of fossil fuel required to get a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder from the feed lot to your tray (ask me about it – I’ll talk you ear off). 

I have also heard dozens of stories from summer organizers, my fellow students and graduates, about their roles organizing the food and service workers at their schools. One student became so entrenched in underground organizing at Pomona College that he disappeared almost entirely from college social life. A Loyola Marymount University student made his way into the president’s office to demand fair wages for the workers on his campus. That is dedication to a cause of the likes of which I have never seen in people my age, and it inspires me. 

What I’m saying is that the summer program, like the labor movement as a whole, is more than just the sum of its parts. We are in this fight together, which means we have to talk and share and learn from each other’s experiences, backgrounds, and knowledge. Building relationships is what makes this union run, and only through arming ourselves as a community can we possibly expect to win the labor battles we are fighting in hotels every day. 

-Risa, Summer Organizer, Los Angeles

Action at Pomona

On Wednesday, August 3rd, workers and students from across the country rallied at Pomona College to protest the treatment of a fired dining hall worker at the school. The protest began with a 100-person picket of Alexander Hall: on the picket-line, Pomona workers, students, and alumni, joined by students, organizers, and workers from UNITE HERE, chanted: “what do we want?” “Francisco back!”

The chant referred to the recent termination of Francisco Garcia, a cook at Pomona for 16 years: Garcia is both a leader in the dining hall workers’ unionization drive and an injured worker. Part of Wednesday’s protest included a delegation to General Manager Glenn Graziano, and Assistant Director of Campus Facilities, Margie McKenna, who were observing the rally, and were presented with Unfair Labor Practice charges. Now, the school will face an investigation into Garcia’s termination by the National Labor Relations Board’s Regional Office.

Workers, led by Francisco Garcia, also presented the ULP charges to Vice President Karen Sisson. “During the negotiations, you said the workers had a voice (in the workplace). Well, this is our voice,” said cook Christian Torres to Sisson, referring to the strength of the workers’ and students’ collective action. Cook Rolando Araiza then led the group in a “Si Se Puede” chant.

Outside of Alexander Hall, the rally continued: student and alumni supporters spoke out. Loyola Marymount University (LMU) student Fatima also spoke, explaining how workers and students had come together at her school and organized for two years to finally win the union in April. “On behalf of LMU students, we support your right to a democratic process to unionize,” she encouraged Pomona workers. The two-hour rally ended with workers, students, and alumni locking arms, and singing “De Colores.” Many press venues covered the event, including TV channels NBC and Azteca, ensuring that the workers’ message of fighting on is heard loud and clear.

Si se puede!

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

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


Update!

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