Star power launches campaign to consolidate hotel
worker bargaining strength
Mayor Gavin Newsom
Senator John Edwards
By Pat Murphy
February 16, 2006
National stars Danny Glover and Senator John Edwards joined 2,000
Bay Area hotel workers in San Francisco yesterday launching multi-city
effort to consolidate bargaining power.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom predicted success "will
help restore America's middle class."
Speaking on behalf of hotel owners, spokesman Steve Trent termed
the campaign a drive "to use union dues to grow its declining
Locally, Unite Here Local 2 has represented hotel workers in
a two-year contract negotiations without settlement.
A major sticking point centers on uniform contract expiration
date which would consolidate union bargaining position throughout
the United States and Canada.
In addition, workers claim their workload increases without pay
Former Democratic Party vice presidential candidate Edwards promised
he "will do whatever I can to make their campaign a success."
Kicking off that campaign as Hotel Workers Rising, union workers
greeted Edwards with ovation.
"Can we still really call America the land of opportunity
when hotel workers who work full time for profitable hotel companies
cannot afford to make ends meet?" Edwards questioned.
"This is not just unjust, it is immortal, and we need to
do something about it.
"Hotel workers Rising can restore the dreams of working
families who seek a fair share of our prosperity and a chance
to make a better life, and that is why I am participating in this
tour, and will do whatever I can to make their campaign a success."
San Francisco resident and longtime labor activist Glover joins
Edwards in the four-city tour which continues to Los Angeles,
Chicago of Boston.
"I know how hard you work, how heavy those linen carts are,
how tired you are at the end of the day," recalled Glover
who held low-paying jobs before his motion picture career took
"And also the pride you take in your work, the effort you
make to make others comfortable - to make me comfortable when
I am a guest at your hotels.
"Well, it's my turn to do something for your comfort. I
am with you all the way and I will stand side by side with you
until we have won better standards for hotel workers.
Newsom, who walked picket lines when hotel owners locked-out
employees following a two-week strike, said workers deserve "a
piece of the American dream."
"I am proud that the kick off event for the Hotel Workers
Rising campaign is taking place here in San Francisco, the City
named for St. Francis," Newsom told the crowd.
"A City with a long tradition of providing, comfort and
compassion to everyone who makes a home here. Anyone who works
hard and provides good service in the tourism industry, the backbone
of our local economy, deserves a piece of the American dream.
"Hotel Workers Rising is a much needed movement that will
help restore America's middle class.
The San Francisco Multi-Employer Group (SMEG), which represents
hotel owners, issued a prepared response.
"In its most recent flyer, Local 2 acknowledged that San
Francisco hotel workers enjoy the best work standards in the country,"
said Steve Trent, spokesman for SMEG.
"Our employees are among the highest paid hotel workers
nationwide, their workload is the best in the country and they
enjoy affordable, quality health care and pension benefits. We
are committed to working toward a contract that would continue
to provide these benefits to our hard-working employees, and we
believe the union leadership would be more productive if it focused
on reaching a fair contract, rather than staging rallies that
serve no local benefit."
"Today's rally made clear what UNITE Here's real agenda
is - to use union dues to grow its declining membership rolls.
Throughout the past year, SMEG has made numerous offers on the
economic issues affecting San Francisco hotel workers - improved
wages, comprehensive healthcare and generous benefits - as well
as offering a fair compromise on contract duration. Each offer
was rejected by union leadership in the interest pursuing a national
union organizing strategy.
"Our commitment to our employees remains unchanged. We will
continue to work hard to get a new labor agreement that provides
our employees with quality, affordable healthcare, competitive
wages and generous benefits," Trent said.
United Farm Workers Union President, Arturo Rodriguez
UNITE Here International Union President, John Wilhelm
Local2 UNITE Here chieftain, Mike Casey (left)