For immediate release
September 15, 2004
Support Pledged by Civil Rights Presidents from NAACP and National Council of La Raza
(Washington, DC) – Thousands of hotel and restaurant workers in three major American cities have voted by overwhelming margins to authorize a strike. Contracts in San Francisco and Los Angeles expired in April and September, and the Washington DC contract expires today. Despite extensive negotiations, hotel industry representatives have refused to drop their demands that workers accept reduced health benefits and pensions, and increased workloads.
“Hotel workers from every background and every nation share the same dream: to join the middle class through hard work and fair pay,” says John Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industries, UNITE HERE. “Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants, women, and people of color have had to fight for fair treatment. Today, our members are taking the next step on that long road to equality by demanding that the huge corporations that employ them respect their rights.”
Hotel workers are also seeking a two year contract term ending in 2006 to put them on more equal footing when negotiating with the hotel chains. A number of other big city hotel contracts expire in 2006 including New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto. The companies are refusing to meet this demand.
“Most of us are people of color and immigrants. Maybe we work in the back of the house, but we deserve respect. To get it, we have to be equal with the hotel companies at the bargaining table. Otherwise, they divide us city by city,” said Donald Wilson, a cook at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and a member of UNITE HERE Local 11.
Hotels corporations have amassed enormous bargaining power through consolidation. In fact, the largest hotel companies (Marriot, Hilton, and Hyatt and others) now account for 22% of total sales in the industry. Within the top 15 lodging markets, 75% of the rooms are affiliated with national or global companies.
“The hotel corporations are saying, in effect, that their employees can be separate but equal,” says Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, NAACP. “We know from history that separate can never be equal. NAACP members will stand together with hotel workers in this important fight for equality.”
“Americans know full well who does the hard work in hotels throughout the country; there is a relationship between the struggle for equity which we in the civil rights community fight every day, and the efforts of these hotel workers to gain equal footing at the negotiating table,” explains Raul Yzaguirre, President, National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization.
UNITE HERE is the merged union of hospitality, gaming, apparel, textile and laundry workers. The new union represents nearly half a million workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
To learn more about the Hotel Workers United campaign, visit www.hotelworkersunited.org. To get more information about labor unrest at specific hotels, visit www.hotellaboradvisor.info. More information can be found at www.unitehere.org. If you have questions, or would like to arrange in interview, please call Amanda Cooper at 917-533-4050 or David Koff at 213-347-6380.