Over the past year, media coverage of the red-hot labor market gave employers considerable print space to rehash stale narratives of how “no one wants to work anymore.” Less prominent were the sober facts: wage gains have barely kept pace with inflation, the cost of living crisis is dire, and race and gender wage gaps persist — especially among tipped workers. Despite these challenges, some of the lowest-paid workers in the country — delivery drivers in New York City and restaurant workers in Washington, DC — have won significant victories. The New York drivers won the country’s first minimum wage for their occupation and DC servers won a ballot initiative to get rid of the local subminimum wage for tipped workers.
When Thomas Bradley showed up for his third shift at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa in Dana Point, California, on July 2 he encountered something new: a picket line. The picket was part of a wave of strikes at Los Angeles-area hotels by members of UNITE HERE Local 11. Their contracts at 62 hotels expired June 30. The hotel workers’ top demand is for pay that will allow them to secure housing in a market that is pricing them out. Bradley, who had been a hotel union member years before, stopped to talk to the picketing workers and then joined them, exercising his right to strike under labor law. But there was a problem.
Shouts of “No contract, No peace,” pounding drums, and a raucous band pierced the usually quiet, tony city of Beverly Hills, California, as 250 hotel workers picketed the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria on July 26. The primarily Latino crowd then marched several blocks down Wilshire Boulevard to picket the posh Beverly Wilshire hotel entrance, flowing around Porsches, black Cadillac SUVs, and a Mercedes Maybach containing a terrified pug. The Beverly Hills action was part of the third wave of strikes against 62 hotels in southern California after contracts expired June 30.
On June 22, nearly 200 workers, union leaders, progressive politicians, and other community members were arrested in a mass civil disobedience action. 200 demonstrators sat down in the middle of the road in Los Angeles, subjecting themselves to arrest to demand better wages, pensions, a housing fund, benefits, and safer workloads for UNITE HERE Local 11 workers in Los Angeles. Workers are gearing up to possibly strike after their contract with Hyatt, IHG, Hilton and Marriott hotels in LA expires on June 30. Local 11 workers authorized a strike on June 8 with 96% approval. This strike would involve over 15,000 union hotel workers, the largest hotel strike in modern US history.
In the heart of California’s wine country, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa offers guests access to on-site geothermal mineral pools, an exclusive golf club and farm-to-table dining. “Like the Native Americans who revered the site as a sacred healing ground, you’ll live in harmony with nature through vast open spaces, beautifully landscaped grounds, majestic redwood trees and inspiring sunsets,” boasts the resort’s website. That purported serenity on stolen Native American land has not extended to the workers at the luxury resort where union avoidance consultants hired by and staying at the hotel for the past several months have been trying to suppress their union organizing drive.
A New York hotel union has reached a deal with hotel owners and operators that will boost the wages of hospitality workers by $7.50 an hour, the largest increase in the union’s 100-year history. The agreement covers 7,000 members of the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council who work at 87 suburban hotels spanning from Princeton, N.J., to New York’s Albany region and Long Island. The five-year pact has already been ratified by the employers and is expected to be ratified by workers this month, according to union President Rich Maroko. The new contract doesn’t include New York City hotels, where union members are also represented by the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council and where wages are still at a premium compared with the suburbs.
Washington, DC – UNITE HERE Local 23 on Thursday released the results of a survey of 76% of the Compass workers who staff food service at the World Bank that detail ways workers struggle to afford necessities like food and housing. Workers are in negotiations for new union contracts that keep up with the cost of living and additionally announced a picket line action on the Compass-operated cafeteria at the World Bank on Wednesday, April 12. UNITE HERE is in negotiations with Compass Group for workers in cafeterias at several high-profile DC locations in addition to the World Bank, including the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Institute of Health, Freddie Mac, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, American University, Catholic University of America, and George Washington University, among others.
Los Angeles, California - Following weeks of uncharacteristically gloomy days, the weather broke late in the afternoon on Wednesday, March 15, seemingly in preparation for the 4:30 PM Unite for Los Angeles Schools rally in Grand Park outside City Hall. The gathered crowd buzzed with excitement and righteous indignation. Drums and horns sounded, signs and t-shirts were given out and street vendors peddled everything from cotton candy to tacos, making the event feel more like a music festival than a rally. Our headliners? Leaders from two of the largest unions in Los Angeles County.
The coronavirus crisis is spurring record-breaking sales for grocery store chains, straining supply chains and exhausting employees. While many businesses are having employees work from home or are closing down to mitigate the spread of the virus, grocery stores have been designated a “critical industry” by federal agencies. This means they can largely continue with business like normal—and normal was bad enough. Grocery chains have long embraced a lean production model, with stores reliant on ever-smaller numbers of predominantly part-time workers who stock shelves with a constant stream of just-in-time inventory that isn’t warehoused but moves to the floor and then out the door as quickly as it arrives.
“Will There Ever Be a #MeToo-Style Movement for Bad Bosses?” New York magazine asked readers in a tone-deaf fog of obliviousness last month. The piece itself was fairly benign, addressing the long-standing and profoundly dubious cult of the genius boss. The trouble was with the headline—which, it must be noted, was almost certainly chosen by a New York editor, not the writer, feminist author Rebecca Traister. Just moments after the piece was blasted out on Twitter, Labor Twitter blasted right back. As veteran labor journalist Sarah Jaffe replied in an apt tone of disbelief, “It’s called the labor movement?”
This week, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the Monitoring Colorado Call Center Job Losses Act, HB19-1306, into law. The bill will require the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to keep a list of Colorado call center jobs, including those which have been replaced by overseas call centers, and require the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to issue an annual report to state lawmakers on those call center job losses. "I've seen first-hand how companies harm working families in Colorado by laying off call center jobs and moving operations overseas.
In eight U.S. cities and two in Canada, hotel workers are waging a militant strike against the Marriott hotel chain. Though Marriott is the largest and most profitable hotel chain in the world, its workers have united nationally around the slogan “one job should be enough.” This refers to the fact that many hotel workers must work two or more jobs to make ends meet. Cities affected by the strike are Boston, Detroit, Honolulu, Kauai; Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose in California; and Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. Close to two dozen hotels are feeling the effects of the strike. Striking hotel workers in San Francisco took to the streets Oct. 20 as part of the national strike.
Tina Graham has worked for Chicago hotels for 11 years, and in the beginning, she faced a predicament every winter: As the tourism industry’s slow season approached she lost her health insurance, even as she dealt with the wear and tear that such physical work takes on her body. “When you’re working, you’re moving all of your body, your hands, your feet, your legs, your arms, and they get tired,” she told Truthout. “It’s really hard.” Graham has had to have work done on her rotator cuff due to the repetitive nature of her tasks. She takes arthritis pills every morning and wears a medicated patch on her back throughout the day. “You don’t rest from the time you get there to the time you leave,” she said. “You’re on the move, pushing a big cart with your linens on it, chemicals on it, your vacuum on it, going from room to room.”
In one of the city’s largest work stoppages in years, thousands of unionized hotel workers across downtown Chicago are on strike to win a new contract. Since Sept. 7, over 6,000 housekeepers, cooks, doormen, bartenders, servers and dishwashers with UNITE HERE Local 1 have been picketing outside 26 hotels, including the Palmer House Hilton, Hyatt Regency and Sheraton Grand. Spirits are high as striking workers and supporters maintain loud and energetic picket lines at all hours of the day. Contracts at 30 downtown hotels—each negotiated separately—expired on August 31. The strike was authorized two weeks earlier by 97 percent of voting union members. In addition to raises, safer workloads, increased sick days and improved job security, workers are fighting to win year-round health insurance.
By Clint Rainey for Grub Street - Despite him using the word “freely to describe black people,” police told Ford it wasn’t a criminal act, so there wasn’t much they could do. Ford took to Facebook instead, where her post quickly exploded. While she says the site deleted the original for some reason, her updates have received plenty of attention: It didn’t take long for Dairy Queen’s headquarters to take action. It released a statement Thursday that called Crichton’s behavior “inexcusable, reprehensible, and unacceptable,” and then, on Friday, the chain announced that Crichton’s restaurant would close, effective immediately, and “not reopen as a Dairy Queen unless ownership changes at that location.”