Hotel Housekeepers Join Global Campaign

by Paul Garver

PakistanGHSKC

In Lahore, Pakistan, 55 housekeepers make up 600 rooms at the five star Pearl Continental Hotel. Only 17 of the 55 housekeepers are permanent. Only one of the 17 permanent workers is a women and another 12 women are employed on a precarious basis.

During their shift housekeepers are only allowed a 30 minute “free lunch”. It is the only break in 10 hours. While working 10 hour shifts alone every day, handling loaded trolleys weighing in excess of 50 kilograms, women housekeepers face a range of serious health, safety and security issues. Even after working for 5 to 10 years the legal minimum wage of PKR 12,000 (USD 117) per month is the maximum wage for precarious women housekeepers.

On learning about the IUF’s Global Housekeeping Campaign for housekeepers’ dignity, a woman housekeeper said: “After learning about the IUF Global Campaign for Housekeepers I now believe as housekeepers we will be able to live a better and decent life too.”

Hidden within magnificent luxury hotels as well as more modest establishments throughout the world,
housekeepers are the foundation of the hospitality business. Yet for all the skill and hard work they bring to guests and employers, their contribution is scandalously undervalued. Housekeepers are now challenging their invisible status, speaking out against abusive working conditions and calling on the global hotel industry to recognize their contribution and their rights. From December 3-10, hotel housekeepers in more than 25 countries around the world are holding a Global Week of Action to highlight their situation and to demand a safe, secure working environment from a global industry which rests on their efforts. “The campaign puts the reality of the sector up front, on the table”, tells Kelly from Argentina, who has
been working as a housekeeper for 18 years.

Housekeepers perform exhausting daily tasks for low pay and little or no employment
security. The vast majority are women, often migrants. Their vulnerability exposes
them to a multitude of health, safety and security risks: risks to their bodies from
repetitive, heavy tasks, sexual abuse, exploitation by unscrupulous employers who
often fiercely resist union organization, outsourcing schemes that shield employers
from responsibility and further degrade working conditions and insufficient or totally
lacking legal and social security. Few guests would imagine that housekeepers have
one of the highest rates of work-related injuries and sickness of any occupational
group. “I am already stressed before I start working, since I don’t know how many
rooms and beds are expected to be cleaned”, reports Sofie from Sweden, 29 years
old. I never know if I have time to take my break because I can only get to it all if I
skip my break.”

The week of activities, organized through the IUF’s ‘Make up my workplace!’
campaign for healthy, safe and dignified working conditions for housekeepers will
culminate in an international press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil on December
12th, where images from the week will be displayed and housekeepers will tell their
stories of work and struggle.

“The campaign has made me aware that the pain I feel in my body is not a personal matter but a workplace issue”, says a South African housekeeper. Their hopes and their determination to fight for change are echoed by housekeepers around the world. “The hotel companies want to deliver five-star service with two star jobs. At my hotel, we all got together and joined the union and that has made all the difference. Room attendants need to stand together around the world so that, together, we can fulfil our dreams for ourselves and our families”, says Josie, 37, from Canada.

Housekeepers at American five-star hotels face the same challenges. Housekeepers at the Harvard University-owned Doubletree Suites hotel recently went on strike for union recognition and the right to bargain for better conditions.

Port Truck Drivers on Strike! A Dispatch from Two of the Nation’s Largest Ports

 by David Bensman

 November 22, 2014

bensman

All Photos Courtesy of the Author

On Thursday, November 13, port truckers struck at the nation’s largest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, demanding an end to misclassification and wage theft. It was the fourth strike in a campaign initiated by the Teamsters and Change to Win seven years ago. It’s been a long campaign and the cost has been enormous.

The trucking companies categorize the truckers as independent contractors, a ploy that relieves the companies of the responsibility of employers. They don’t have to pay payroll taxes, don’t have to contribute to unemployment or workers’ compensation funds, don’t have to respect labor and employment laws: no right to unionize, no health and safety protections, no freedom from discrimination. After several strategies stalled, the Teamsters and Change to Win embarked on a campaign to prove that the drivers were employees, not contractors, and therefore fell under the jurisdiction of the Wagner Act. (The first step was convincing the drivers themselves that they were misclassified.) Having spent seven years researching the port trucking industry, I wanted to find out if the unions’ organizing campaign had finally broken through, so I flew out to Long Beach last weekend. This is what I saw.
Friday, November 14, 2014

Things are breaking on the port truckers’ strike. Nick Weiner, Change to Win’s lead organizer on the campaign, met with two trucking company heads and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti about respecting the workers’ right to unionize. Court rulings and NLRB actions are taking a toll on the companies. At the end of two days of picketing, the parties issued a joint statement that, amazingly, recognized the independent contractors’ right to join a union if they so chose—a major breakthrough. The union agreed to suspend the picket lines on Saturday, with the understanding that if the companies did not sign agreement next week, the strikes would resume. Two other trucking companies are reported to be close to a card check agreement.

In the afternoon, members of Teamsters Local 848 and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) staff joined drivers from two struck companies on the picket lines. Truck after truck was turned away at terminals by terminal operators who did not want to bring down the wrath of the IBT. At the Pac9 picket line, striking drivers actively blocked traffic while discussing strategy in loud Spanish. I met with one driver, Alex Paz, who was discharged by another trucking company, TTSI, for filing charges in court complaining of wage theft and misclassification. Alex was one of thirty-five drivers illegally discharged for speaking up. The unfair labor practice complaint against the company is before NLRB. While awaiting restitution, Alex is working as an employee of Toll, a member of the Teamsters, where—for a change—he enjoys overtime pay and health care coverage.
Continue reading

Immigration information for workers

image (14)Thanks to the President’s  announcement that he will take administrative action on immigration, I have real hope. The president’s action will provide millions of working people and families with the opportunity to come out of the shadows and into the light of our economy and society without fear.

Those who can benefit from this administrative action should use iAmerica.org – a new resource offering informational tools and interactive opportunities to become full participants of our nation’s democracy.

Visit iAmerica and share it with a friend now ➞ iAmerica.org. (There’s no application process that exists yet, but once there is, this will be a trusted resource to receive accurate information).

Go to www.iAmerica.org

Gilberto Soto, Assassinated U.S. – Salvadorean Union Organizer

by Paul Garver

Gilberto Soto was an American citizen of Salvadorean origin, who had been organizing port truck drivers for the Teamsters In New Jersey.  In 2004 he revisited El Salvador to visit his family and celebrate his 50th birthday.  Because of a local news report that he was interested in supporting unionized dock workers who had been fired after privatization, he was gunned down by three armed members of a death squad.  The local police refused to investigate, asserting that Soto was the victim of a robbery (even though his wallet was not taken).

The short video, produced by Ron Carver, cites other recent unsolved assassinations of unionists and other citizens fighting for their rights in El Salvador.  Despite the election of a pro-FMLN government, the intellectual authors of these crimes are never successfully prosecuted.

Organizing of port truckers and other transport and dock workers is a core necessity for the workers’ movement in most countries, including the USA, as evidenced by the heroic efforts to organize immigrant truckers in southern California.

 

Labor Leaders – Honduras Near “Failed State” Status Due to Trade Agreements

Honduras Near ‘Failed State’ Status Due to Free Trade Agreement, Says Labor and Latino Leaders

By Michael Oleaga. Latin Post.

honduras-immigrants-immigration

Representatives from national Latino and labor organizations described the situation one of the Central American countries as “unbearable,” and natives continue to migrate north into Mexico and the United States.

Communication Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre and National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) Executive Director Pablo Alvarado were among a group of individuals visiting Honduras Oct. 12-15 to meet with Honduras on how the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) benefited the country. Alvarado, Cohen and Gebre agreed Honduras has not seen improvements from the agreement, which was implemented 10 years ago.

The CAFTA-DR agreement has been regarded as the first free trade agreement between the U.S. and the smaller developing economies of Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the agreement would create “new economic opportunities by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency.” Continue reading

Linking Trade, Work, and Migration

Globalization and NAFTA Caused Migration from Mexico

By David Bacon, Political Research Associates

Immigrant Oaxacan Farm Worker and Weaver, and her Family

Rufino Domínguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, who now heads the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, estimates that there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the U.S., 300,000 in California alone.1 [1]

In Oaxaca, some towns have become depopulated, or are now made up of only communities of the very old and very young, where most working-age people have left to work in the north. Economic crises provoked by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other economic reforms are now uprooting and displacing these Mexicans in the country’s most remote areas, where people still speak languages (such as Mixteco, Zapoteco and Triqui) that were old [2] when Columbus arrived from Spain.2 [3] “There are no jobs, and NAFTA forced the price of corn so low that it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore,” Dominguez says. “We come to the U.S. to work because we can’t get a price for our product at home. There’s no alternative.” Continue reading

Immigration Reform, Activism, and Moral Certainty

by Duane Campbell

English: Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice Preside...

English: Eliseo Medina, former Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, testifying on immigration reform before the Subcommittee on Immigration of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, April 30, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An argument is being made in many places in the Latino community condemning Obama for his not taking executive action on immigration and condemning Civil Rights veterans such as DSA Honorary Chairs Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina for their positions of not condemning the Obama lack of action. Here is an example. http://voxxi.com/2014/09/24/latino-leaders-wrong-obama-immigration/

A problem with this effort is that attacking our allies does not move immigration policy forward. And, an argument from a position of moral correctness does not necessarily change policy. We need to be on the morally correct side, as Huerta and Medina are, but that is not enough. See prior posts on this blog about Medina and Huerta.

I learned this in the anti war movement against the war in Viet Nam. We had hundreds of thousands in the streets opposed to the war, but the war went on. 58,000 U.S. soldiers died, 100,000s were injured. Over 1.2 million Vietnamese died. Although we were morally correct, the war went on.

In El Salvador between 1982 and 1992 the U.S. backed government carried out a civil war against the population. At least 75,000 were killed. In Nicaragua between 19 79-1990 at leas 40,000 were killed. In Guatemala the civil war cost at least 200,000 lives. Our solidarity efforts in the U.S. were morally correct, but our efforts did not change U. S. policy.

Moral correctness does not change policy because political and economic power largely controls this country. We have a political oligarchy- the control of our government by the super rich. Our government is dominated by corporations. We need to study and to understand neoliberal capitalism. Then, we will need to go to work to change it.

In the current immigration debate. Continue reading

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