Author Archives for Daria Ovide

College dining hall workers in Boston win their first union contract.

More Boston-Area College Cafeteria Workers Join Local 26

August 13, 2014 8:13 pm Published by Leave a comment

College dining hall workers in Boston win their first union contract.After organizing to join UNITE HERE Local 26, food service workers at three Boston-area universities Recently ratified their first union contracts unanimously.

Employed by Chartwells, the one hundred workers serve in the dining halls of Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy—all part of the Colleges of the Fenway collaborative.

The one hundred workers will receive substantial pay increases, lower-cost heath benefits, and numerous other improvements to their working conditions.

Workers went to management at the start of the academic year in 2013 with majority support for the Union and demanded recognition. Colleges of the Fenway cafeterias are next to Northeastern University, whose 400 cafeteria workers joined Local 26 in 2012, and Simmons College, where workers won their contract earlier this year. Workers at nearby Wheelock College are currently negotiating their first contract with Sodexo.

Workers at Simmons first shared the idea of the Union to their sisters and brothers who work at the Colleges of the Fenway. They often take the T together and talk about work. Sometimes, they live in the same neighborhoods.

“We work so hard for our students, but we were really suffering,” said Stella Cosby, a cook at Simmons College. Cosby and her co-workers began reaching out to workers in the area. She said it wasn’t easy , but it helped that the Simmons crew could speak from experience. They’d done it first.

“We knew it couldn’t stop with us,” Cosby added. “We explained that we think we deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and to have better working conditions, and that we could have that through a union.”

Edith “Tiny” Figueroa, a barista at Simmons College, was there when Colleges of the Fenway workers cast ballots to vote in their new contract.

“I really believe that we can raise the standard for food service workers across Boston and Massachusetts. We serve food at some of the nation’s best schools. We deserve better,” she said.

“I’ve been a cook at Wentworth for more than 20 years, “ said Thertilo Blanc. “I’m so glad that we now have a contract that gives consistent wage increases, vacation and sick days, better benefits, and a grievance procedure. We have a voice.”

UNITE HERE Boston’s Local 26 represents 7,000 workers in hotels, campus cafeterias, convention centers, Fenway Park and Logan Airport. Visit their Website at Local26.org.

UNITE HERE Local 24 members welcome Detroiters to Pride

Detroit Uses City Spotlight to Advance Campaigns

August 10, 2014 7:59 pm Published by Leave a comment

UNITE HERE Local 24 members welcome Detroiters to PrideThe city of Detroit has had a lot of attention in 2014—and not all of it good. But UNITE HERE Local 24 has taken advantage of a number of major recent downtown events to bring attention to organizing efforts at the Crowne Plaza Detroit and the DoubleTree Detroit.

Built right next to the Cobo Center, the Crowne Plaza Ponchartrain Hotel is the city’s major convention hotel. Shuttered by foreclosure in 2009, a Mexican hotelier bought and reopened the property 2013. Local 24 brought a 300-person picket line of members and allies to opening day, calling attention to the hotel’s role in lowering labor standards in the heart of the city.

Workers have recently organized more substantial rallies with their allies. In May, they brought out 150 picketers from the AFT, the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, and other groups. Over 1,000 UAW convention delegates flooded the streets in July for a solidarity rally. Then, thousands at the Motor City Pride parade marched past the Crowne Plaza and expressed their support for the workers.

On the same day as Pride, Local 24 members also turned out to support community, feminist, and LGBT activist groups protesting a so-called “men’s rights” conference at the DoubleTree Detroit. Formerly known as the Fort Shelby Hotel, the workers’ participation helped raise awareness of their boycott of the property.

At the end of July, Local 24 again highlighted these campaigns for Netroots, a top communications convention for unions and progressive organizations. UNITE HERE participated in big way, by including the Crowne Plaza as a stop on the convention’s union tour of Detroit, turning out members to the massive protest against municipal water shut-offs, and sharing ice cream with Netroots participants who joined a special DoubleTree picket line.

Disney World housekeepers parade with uniforms and mops

Workers Ratify New Contract With Disney World Orlando

August 6, 2014 7:39 pm Published by Leave a comment

Disney World housekeepers parade with uniforms and mopsMembers of the Service Trades Council Union ratified a new agreement with the Walt Disney World Resort in a vote on August 1. Workers came to a tentative agreement with the resort late on July 18.

The new contract covers 21,000 workers, more than 60% of whom are represented by UNITE HERE Local 737 and UNITE HERE Local 362 in Orlando. Many UNITE HERE custodians, housekeepers, attractions attendants, and food and beverage employees participated in union negotiations for their first time.

The deal features unprecedented wage increases, including a minimum hourly rate of $10 starting in 2016. The agreement also preserves pensions for new hires and—for the first time in many years—freezes employees’ weekly health insurance contributions in 2015.

Workers have been demonstrating their enthusiasm for central Florida’s renewed organizing spirit with actions of over 1,000 people, including a uniformed parade through downtown Disney earlier this summer.

Read more from the Orlando Sentinel.

Visit UNITE HERE Local 737 and 362 on Facebook.

Vince and Robert, union brothers at the Graton Casino

Sonoma County Casino Workers Join UNITE HERE

July 24, 2014 2:10 pm Published by Leave a comment

Vince and Robert, union brothers at the Graton CasinoWorkers at the Graton Resort & Casino in Sonoma County, California are now members of UNITE HERE, following an organizing drive to raise standards for workers in the region’s lucrative tourism industry.

The vote by 600 janitors, waiters, cooks, and gaming workers was run under an agreement between UNITE HERE and the Graton Federated Tribes, which allowed workers to choose freely whether to become union members without interference from their employer.

In results certified by an arbitrator on July 18, eligible employees voted 70% in favor of joining UNITE HERE Local 2850.

“Tourists spend a lot of money at casinos and restaurants here in Sonoma, but often the workers are living in poverty. We’re joining the union because we want to turn that around,” said Graton porter Kathy Winifield.

Read more in the Press Democrat: Graton Casino Workers Vote To Join Union

Big Win For New England Textile Workers

July 17, 2014 9:35 pm Published by Leave a comment

uretekNearly 200 textile workers in New Haven, Connecticut ratified a strong new union contract this July, despite uncertainty in the U.S. textile industry.

Workers at Uretek won wage increases, improved their health and vision plans while decreasing their costs, reduced mandatory overtime, and established a fairer promotion system to encourage more internal advancement.

The members of New England Joint Board Local 151 make polyurethane-coated fabrics for military applications and—increasingly—commercial products, like air mattresses. UNITE HERE members are proving time and again that we still can manufacture things in the United States while treating workers with the dignity and respect we deserve.

Houston airport workers with Mayor Annise Parker.

Good Jobs = Great Service in Houston

July 14, 2014 9:24 pm Published by Leave a comment

Houston airport workers with Mayor Annise Parker.UNITE HERE Local 23 in Houston hosted its first successful airport worker convention on July 11 with the theme “Good Jobs for Airport Workers = Great Service for Houston’s Visitors.” Over 100 airport workers from both of the unionized Houston airport union concessions companies, as well as non-union concessions workers, gathered to welcome their special guest, Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Attendees pledged to work together to make changes on the job and changes in the city so that IAH truly may be the greatest airport in the world.

Workers at the Kahala Resort in Waikiki praise their newly-ratified contract.

New Contract for Hawai’ian Resort Workers

July 12, 2014 5:41 pm Published by Leave a comment

Workers at the Kahala Resort in Waikiki praise their newly-ratified contract.On July 4, workers at The Kahala Resort ratified their new contract with a 99% yes vote. They are the final UNITE HERE Local 5 hotel in Waikiki to ratify their contract. Now all UNITE HERE hotels in Waikiki have a contract that puts them on the same standard. Their wage increases will be effective as of July 1, 2014.

UNITE HERE in action, La Jolla, Calif.

2014 Constitutional Convention

June 24, 2014 8:30 pm Published by Leave a comment

UNITE HERE in action, La Jolla, Calif.Over 800 UNITE HERE members will convene in Boston June 25-27 for the union’s Constitutional Convention.

Allies like Senator Elizabeth Warren, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, and more will join the delegates to celebrate five years of success since UNITE HERE’s last convention.

Since 2009, UNITE HERE has grown and changed the lives of thousands of working families—despite the effects of the global recession on hospitality and other industries we represent. Last year alone, UNITE HERE locals and affiliates organized nearly 10,000 new union workers.

Convention will give UNITE HERE leaders the opportunity to dedicate themselves publically to continue this level of growth. By the time of the next Convention, we want to have changed 50,000 more lives into ones with dignified wages, respect for safety, accessible family health care, and respect on the job.

For information about the Convention, check out www.unitehere2014.org or follow #UH2014 on Instagram and Twitter.