Unite Here Chief Blasts Obama Over ACA

by Bruce Vail

President Donald “D” Taylor’s union, Unite Here, released a scathing report last week about the unintended consequences of Obamacare.   (Unite Here)

President Donald “D” Taylor’s union, Unite Here, released a scathing report last week about the unintended consequences of Obamacare. (Unite Here)

Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law in 2010, unions say they have pleaded with the White House dozens of times to make labor-friendly changes to the law. With the deadline to sign up for 2014 coverage looming, hospitality union Unite Here has produced a stinging new report on the failure of the White House and congressional Democrats to face Obamacare’s numerous problems.

The 12-page report, “The Irony of Obamacare: Making Inequality Worse,” began circulating last week to its primary audience of some 270,000 Unite Here members. It largely focuses on the law’s negative future impact on Unite Here’s existing joint labor-management healthcare plans, also known as “Taft-Hartley plans,” warning that union members may lose their existing insurance coverage and be forced to buy more expensive insurance elsewhere. Continue reading

Ethical Eaters of The World Unite…For Workers Rights No Unions Behind The Kitchen Door?

behindthekitchendoorLast year’s multi-city protests by fast food workers focused long overdue attention on the job problems of ten million Americans employed in restaurants. Saru Jayaraman, the charismatic co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), has been assisting workers in finer dining establishments for more than a decade, an organizing career impressively chronicled in her new book, Behind The Kitchen Doorfrom Cornell University Press.

As Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser says in his introduction, ROC “doesn’t just represent workers. It seeks to empower them, gain them respect, and give them a voice at work.”

Jayaraman is a Yale-educated lawyer who directs the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She got her start, with much help from UNITE-HERE Local 100, after the 9/11 attacks destroyed Windows on the World, a swank New York City restaurant that sat atop one of the Trade Center towers. Seventy-three workers died and 250 lost their jobs. Windows workers became the nucleus of the original ROC, which provided support services for families of the deceased.

Fekkak Mamdouh, a Moroccan immigrant and former headwaiter at Windows, became a co-founder of the organization. Jayaraman and Mamdouh launched a successful campaign for re-employment of displaced workers when the owner of Windows tried to open a new restaurant elsewhere in Manhattan but initially refused to hire former union members. Continue reading

Trouble in Paradise: Bitter Carmel hotel labor battle has roots in San Francisco

 by Marc Norton

 Carmel, celebrated as an artist colony nestled above a picturesque white-sand beach, is not where you would expect to find a picket line.  But there I was, with maybe 40 others, on a Friday evening the week before Christmas, in front of the La Playa Hotel, shaking noisemakers made from plastic bottles, chanting, “WHAT DO WE WANT? OUR JOBS!”

 Happy holidays, indeed.

 Two years ago, in November 2011, a new owner took over the La Playa Hotel, closed it down, and put a hundred workers on the street.  When the hotel reopened after a $3.5 million remodel, it was with a whole new staff.  The new owner “tossed us out with the old carpets” reads a workers’ leaflet.  Workers like Noe Hinojosa, who had been at the hotel 33 years, like Suong Edwards, who had worked there 31 years, like Sherrie Watkins, who had served guests for 28 years. Continue reading

Unite Here and Hyatt Hit Hiccups in Peace Process

By Bruce Vail

It's been a long road—Unite Here protesting Hyatt Hotel Corp in Chicago in 2009. (Jean Paul Holmes / Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a long road—Unite Here protesting Hyatt Hotel Corp in Chicago in 2009. (Jean Paul Holmes / Wikimedia Commons

A widely heralded union peace agreement that would end a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels Corp and usher in a new era of better labor relations at the sprawling lodgings chain is hitting some potholes on the road to completion, but both sides are still expressing confidence in its ultimate success.

Announced July 1, Hyatt’s “national agreement” with the Unite Here union was advertised as the way to quickly end bitter fights over expired labor contracts at nine hotels in four different cities and to provide a smooth path forward for settling related disputes elsewhere. At the time, Unite Here President Donald Taylor said the contracts would be finalized over the next four to six weeks. After that, a second phase would begin in which several new organizing initiatives would go forward. Continue reading

A Good Day For Hotel Workers

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

UNITE HERE, the union of U.S. and Canadian hotel workers, and the Hyatt chain announced a wide-reaching agreement on Monday afternoon that will give Hyatt employees in currently non-union hotels across the nation the right to choose a union without having to face management opposition. In return, UNITE HERE announced it is lifting its global boycott of Hyatt hotels.

The agreement will go into effect when new union contracts for current members are ratified by UNITE HERE locals in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Honolulu. The terms of those contracts were also agreed to in today’s settlement.

Over the past quarter-century, UNITE HERE has significantly raised living standards for its members in cities where most major hotels have union contracts. In New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas, hotel workers make more than $20-an-hour with employer-provided health benefit plans that have won national acclaim. The union is also known for its innovative contracts: In Las Vegas, the hotels fund and hire from a “Culinary Academy” that trains and certifies graduates for jobs ranging from fry cook to sommelier. In Los Angeles, since the 1990s, the hotels ensure that any employees deported by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement can regain their jobs if they return within two years.

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“I Haven’t Eaten for 3 Days in Solidarity”–Stories from a Hunger Striker

 
By Michelle Gutierrez

(April 9, 2013) We are three days into a five-day hunger strike that was called to save the jobs of nine immigrant workers at the Hilton Mission Valley. I, along with six others, have refused to eat since Friday morning. The nine workers we are supporting are set to be fired on Monday April 8th and Tuesday April 9th because after they tried to organize a union, Evolution Hospitality decided to use E-Verify. This is a program that checks immigrants’ documented status, a program that isn’t even mandatory with the federal government.

The nine workers who will be fired are immigrant women who have worked at the Hilton Mission Valley between 2 and 18 years. They are mothers who play a vital role in supporting their families, even though they make as little as $8.50 an hour and are unable to afford the company’s expensive family health insurance plan. I don’t know how they do it. Somehow, these women have been raising their families on so little. Continue reading

‘Hyatt Hurts’ Boycott Inflicts Pain on the Hotel Giant (Updated)

by Bruce Vail

 

Jeff Nelson (R), research director of UNITE HERE, with Charlotte Knox (L), a 25-year veteran housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore who told the City Council that working conditions have deteriorated.   (Photo courtesy of Bill Hughes/UNITE HERE)

Jeff Nelson (R), research director of UNITE HERE, with Charlotte Knox (L), a 25-year veteran housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore who told the City Council that working conditions have deteriorated. (Photo courtesy of Bill Hughes/UNITE HERE)

UPDATE: The full 14-member Baltimore City Council voted unanimously on March 18 to approve a resolution aimed at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore hotel, where a union organizing drive is currently underway. The resolution, passed in a voice vote, calls on Hyatt to sign a ‘Labor Peace Agreement’ to improve hiring practices and to protect the city’s financial interests as a union-sponsored global boycott goes forward. 

BALTIMORE—Hyatt Corp received an implicit vote of ‘no confidence’ from the Baltimore City Council late last week when the Labor Committee advanced a resolution to halt the hotel giant’s union suppression efforts.

The resolution pressures Hyatt to sign a ‘Labor Peace Agreement’ that would allow UNITE HERE Local 7’s organizing campaign at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore to go forward without obstruction from managers. Approved in a 3-0 vote on March 14, the resolution now heads to the full City Council, where it enjoys overwhelming support.

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Fired Hyatt Workers Win Their Jobs Back

by Bruce Vail

L to R: Union supporter Angel Castro stands with Hyatt workers Mike Jones and Tarrance Taylor, who were fired, then reinstated.

L to R: Union supporter Angel Castro stands with Hyatt workers Mike Jones and Tarrance Taylor, who were fired, then reinstated.

BALTIMORE—Three hotel workers fired last year for pro-union activism at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore are back on the job this week as part of a January 26 deal to settle unfair labor practice charges brought by UNITE HERE.

Mike Jones, the last of the fired employees to resume his old job, reported for work this week. He’s eager to restart his union organizing activities, he tells Working In These Times. (The story of Jones’ firing and his efforts to win his job back were the subject of a Working In These Times story in November of last year.)

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Hotel Housekeeper Says Adding Her to Corporate Board Means Adding Compassion

UniteHere

(December 11, 2012) In a conference call to bloggers, Cathy Youngblood, a 61-year-old housekeeper at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood, said that there were many things she enjoyed about being a housekeeper.

“I get to meet the world,” she said. “I have a real bond with the other women I work with. I also take pride in working in a field where I give comfort and pleasure to people when the travel.”

Youngblood is one of many Hyatt housekeepers who will be asking Hyatt Hotels to add a hotel worker to their board of directors this week. The hotel workers feel the impact of having “someone like me” to also represent the hotel would create a better company for both employees and shareholders.

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NLRB Backs Hyatt Workers Fired During Union Campaign

by Bruce Vail

Fired hotel worker Mike Jones speaks out against the managers of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore at a Nov. 13 press conference. Also shown are NAACP representative Tessa Hill-Aston (center) and UNITE HERE Local 7 President Roxie Herbekian (far right).   Photo by UNITE HERE.

Fired hotel worker Mike Jones speaks out against the managers of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore at a Nov. 13 press conference. Also shown are NAACP representative Tessa Hill-Aston (center) and UNITE HERE Local 7 President Roxie Herbekian (far right). Photo by UNITE HERE.

BALTIMORE – “They fired me [for organizing],” said Hyatt worker Mike Jones at a Baltimore rally this month hosted by Hyatt Hurts, a nationwide campaign against labor abuses at the hotel chain. Jones, a 10-year employee of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, is one of four workers there who claim they were axed in a crackdown against a unionization initiative by UNITE HERE Local 7.

Jones’ statement has been backed up by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which filed a complaint against the hotel November 1. In the complaint, NLRB Acting Regional Director Albert W. Palewicz ordered a formal hearing on the charges to be held on January 14, 2013.

According to Jones, the Local 7 unionization campaign has been under way for about 18 months, but was not confirmed to hotel managers until May of this year. Since then, he says, managers have singled out union supporters for unfair disciplinary procedures in order to build a case for firings and to intimidate other workers.

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