April 22, 2011
While temperatures remain chilly in Seattle, things are heating up in the fight to win justice for hotel workers in the Pacific Northwest. Last week, over 100 people from community organizations and UNITE HERE’s membership gathered to learn about Local 8’s campaign to transform the local hospitality sector into a living wage industry.
A panel of hotel workers shared their stories of how they have shouldered the burden of the recession. In recent years, employers have cut back hours and laid off staff while workloads continue to increase at the expense of workplace safety and customer service.
“They have been adding more work and expect us to clean the same amount of rooms. Many of us complain about pain because of the hard work. Sometimes we don’t even take our breaks,” said Francisca Hendrickson, a housekeeper at the Edgewater Hotel.
Now, with the economic recovery picking up steam and hotel corporations expecting a return to record profits in the near future, workers are organizing for a better life and a fair share of the economic recovery. Workplace leaders are coming together across the region and are determined to fight as long as it takes to achieve respect and dignity.
Panelists urged the community to stand with workers in this struggle. “We are not college interns. This is our job. We need this, we can do better and with all of your support we will get there,” said William Strickland, a front desk agent at the Hilton Seattle Airport. The community members in turn enthusiastically pledged their support.
“I want to see the hospitality industry provide middle class jobs again. I come from a family of hospitality workers and my parents used to have good jobs. We will do everything we can to join together with workers in non-union workplaces to grow our union and make our industry better for workers again,” said Chuck Cruise, a bellman at the Hilton Seattle
The energy in the room was electric and everyone left ready to take action and join the 1,400 local hospitality workers fighting for justice in their industry while negotiating new collective bargaining agreements this summer. “It was very inspiring to see what the workers had to say about their workplace and the role of their union,” said Seth Ballhorn, a local environmental activist with the Sierra Club.
Stay tuned as UNITE HERE Local 8 turns up the heat!
Si se puede!