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Author Topic: Taking on the Hotels
Babbler # 195

posted 21 January 2006 04:25 PM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Harold Meyerson, "Taking on the Hotels," Washington Post 1/18/2006

In a global economy, the conventional wisdom would have it, the bargaining power of unions is the ultimate spent force.

But not all of our economy is global, nor all our labor exportable. Least of all is it exportable in the hotel industry, a sector that employs roughly 1.3 million workers in this country, most at poverty wages. The average hourly wage for a hotel housekeeper is $8.67; multiply that out and it comes to $17,340 a year. Unionized hotel workers make more than that, roughly $26,000 a year, with wage levels dictated chiefly by the level of unionization in a given city. In New York and San Francisco, where nearly all the full-service hotels are unionized, housekeepers make about $19 an hour; in Los Angeles, where about half the hotels are union, housekeepers at the union hotels make about $12; in Phoenix and other Sunbelt cities with no union presence, housekeepers take in $7 an hour.

Which means there are a lot of housekeepers doing the same work at radically different levels of pay, with an even greater gap in benefits. Guests at a high-end resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a midtown Manhattan hotel may pay the same rates, and the housekeepers at those hotels all change linens and vacuum floors, but the New York maids make more than twice what their Scottsdale counterparts do. And so it will remain, unless the hotel union -- UNITE HERE, which represents about 90,000 hotel workers in the United States -- can find a way to do something that hardly any American union has done in recent decades: organize an industry.

That's exactly what UNITE HERE is about to attempt. For the past half-decade, the union has been aligning the expiration dates of its local contracts, and this year comes the payoff: Its contracts expire in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Honolulu. In San Francisco, workers have been without a contract since last year. That means that in more than 400 major hotels across the nation, workers could be on strike later this year (the New York and Chicago contracts are up this summer).

Full Text Article at

It is also worth noting that collective bargaining agreements at 23 Toronto area hotels employing approximately 4,000 workers will also be expiring in 2006, opening a Canadian front on this transnational campaign.

Anybody talking about this in your part of the world yet?

[ 21 January 2006: Message edited by: robbie_dee ]

From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 2777

posted 21 January 2006 10:38 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Its being discussed in the labour movement in the Toronto area as part of a campaign against poverty level wages.

UNITE-HERE has had a number of mass rallies of hotel workers including Hollywood celebs, Jack Layton and Toronto Mayor David Miller.

The hotel industry in Toronto has been hit pretty hard with lay-offs...the fallout from 911, the SARS crisis, the NHL lockout etc. Hotel workers not only get crappy pay, but often don't get enough hours in to qualify for EI benefits (thanks to Paul Martin's savage cuts in the 1990's).

Employment in the industry hasn't yet recovered from the SARS crisis believe it or not. Alot of hotel workers have exhausted what little in the way of EI benefits they received.

This continent-wide organizing around the next collective agreement is quite exciting. If the employers become particularly intransigient the industry could be hit by a continent-wide strike later this year.

From: a Micro$oft-free computer | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 195

posted 23 January 2006 02:50 PM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Babblers who get U.S. PBS on their TVs may be interested in checking out this documentary airing tomorrow night at 10 pm:

Maid In America

Housekeeper. Nanny. Maid. Surrogate mother. Such are the many roles of las domésticas—undocumented workers who came to America in search of a better life and found themselves scrubbing toilets and setting tables, working long hours for little pay in private homes.

Most have no health insurance, no driver license, no pension and no recourse when it comes to employment injustices. They cook meals they could never afford, clean houses they could only dream of owning and care for strangers’ children when their own children are thousands of miles away. Deportation is a constant fear. And still they come to the United States by the thousands in hopes of a better life for themselves and their families.

MAID IN AMERICA is an intimate, eye-opening look at the lives of las domésticas, as seen through the eyes of Eva, Telma and Judith: three Latina immigrants, each with a very different story, who work as nannies and housekeepers in Los Angeles, California. Filmmakers Anayansi Prado and Kevin Leadingham followed their subjects for several years, and their cameras caught some of the most intimate moments of these women’s lives, both on and off the job.

"Am I going after the American Dream? No, I'm not. Because here we have to live in the reality of who we are.” Those are the words of Judith, a Latina housekeeper who emigrated from Guatemala to find work in Los Angeles. A mother of four, Judith left her children back home in search of a better future for her family.

Why am I posting this here? Domestic labour is often an entry level job for new immigrant women, and it can be a highly exploitative one. But "Commercialized" domestic labour, such as work in a hotel or as a cleaner in an office building, is often the first step up the economic ladder after that. And it is precisely these brave, incredibly hard working immigrant women who are leading the union organizing efforts at hotels and janitorial contractors across the United States and Canada. These women are the new face of the labour movement.

[ 23 January 2006: Message edited by: robbie_dee ]

[ 23 January 2006: Message edited by: robbie_dee ]

From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 195

posted 03 February 2006 02:43 AM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Things are heating up in Toronto:

Sonia Puzic, "Hotel workers take up arms in 'bed wars': As contract talks are set to begin, employees argue that more luxurious mattresses exact steep physical toll" Globe & Mail 2/2/06

Housekeepers from two dozen Toronto hotels are organizing to press for better working conditions, saying their health has been a casualty of hotel-chain luxury wars.

Talks on new contracts at 23 hotels, including the Sheraton Centre, Toronto Hilton and Delta Chelsea, are set to begin tomorrow. As the previous contracts were about to expire on Tuesday, more than 100 housekeepers met at a downtown union hall to discuss how Unite Here, a union representing hotel workers across North America, will handle negotiations.

The focus of the meeting was on educating the hotel workers -- many of them female, visible minorities and new immigrants -- about their right to a safe workplace and on encouraging them to negotiate with their employers without feeling intimidated.

Delegates from Interfaith Worker Justice, a network that mobilizes religious support for low-wage workers, flew in from the United States.

"The employers get the message that the community and the church are watching," said Father Jack O'Malley, an Interfaith Worker Justice representative from Pennsylvania.

"This is our chance to make history," said Karen Dublin, a 13-year employee of the Sheraton Centre. "We are hoping to raise our standards of living so we can achieve more. We just want to be compensated fairly."

Ms. Dublin said she'd like to see a reduced workload for housekeepers, who are usually required to clean about 16 rooms in an eight-hour shift. In the past two years, major hotel chains have been embroiled in what industry publications have dubbed "bed wars" or "luxury wars" as they compete for guests by upgrading amenities and offering suites with thicker mattresses and more luxurious bedding.

Ms. Dublin says she suffers from shoulder pain, which she attributes to her work. She has to lift each side of a mattress several times as she double-sheets a bed and changes up to 10 pillowcases when she makes up a room.

"Everybody I know has a pain . . . from the heavy lifting, heavy mattresses," she said.

According to Tourism Toronto, 70 per cent of the city's accommodation-services workers are immigrants and 52 per cent are visible minorities. Research by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council found the median wage of Toronto hotel workers is $26,000 a year.

Hotel housekeepers, who earn an average of $10.48 an hour, report more injuries than workers in heavy construction, says the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, citing 2003 figures.

From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 195

posted 06 February 2006 04:39 PM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
From the Sacramento Business Journal

A good night's sleep for hotel guests can turn into a hard day's work for the hotel staff that has to handle the hefty new mattresses and multiple sheets and pillowcases of a modern hotel suite.

Hotel companies have been catering to customers with programs to make beds more plush and comfortable and to pile on the pillows. Now union organizers hope to turn that guest comfort into industry discomfort.

With most of Greater Sacramento's eight unionized hotels facing labor negotiations this spring and summer, union leaders are focusing on the fancy bedding. In addition to the basic issues of pay and benefits, the unions are targeting the workload expected of hotel workers -- especially in housekeeping. They want more housekeeping staff working the floors or lower requirements for how many rooms maids must finish in a shift.
"Bedding is part of the working conditions in a hotel, and it is one of our priorities to reduce the workload of the housekeeping staff," said Joe McLaughlin, president of Local 49 of UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant union.

From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged

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