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News :: Globalization : Human Rights : Labor : Organizing : Politics
Danny Glover, Sen. John Edwards Rally with Hotel Activists for Workers' Rights
21 Feb 2006
Boston area hotel workers came out strong at the Ritz Carlton Hotel to hear Senator John Edwards, actor/activist Danny Glover and other union leaders speak on workers’ rights last Saturday. The speakers were part of the “Hotel Workers Rising,” one of several nation-wide events to support increased benefits for hotel workers, part of the nation’s fastest growing labor industry.

Photography by Alexis Winter
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Danny Glover, Sen John Edwards rally with hotel activists for workers' rights
Boston area hotel workers came out strong at the Ritz Carlton Hotel to hear Senator John Edwards, actor/activist Danny Glover and other union leaders speak on workers’ rights last Saturday. The speakers were part of the “Hotel Workers Rising,” one of several nation-wide events to support increased benefits for hotel workers, part of the nation’s fastest growing labor industry.

In 11 US cities, union contracts for many of these workers will expire this year. The hotel industry has witness immense consolidation and expansion over the past few decades and now employs 1.3 million workers. While sales in the hotel industry are reaching back to pre 9/11 numbers, hotel workers are not reaping the benefits.

There are over 5,800 hotel workers who are members of Local 26 who work for 17 different hotels in the Boston area. The average pay of these workers is $13.50/hr and many of them receive no benefits, pensions or retirement plans. The average hotel worker is responsible for cleaning 16 rooms a day, spending only twenty minutes per room. Union activists say that this is too much work for so little money. Activists are particularly concerned about the so-called ‘heavenly beds,’ which are larger, heavier beds that can be found in higher end hotels. Because of the size and number of sheets for these beds, unions say that more time is needed to clean than the allotted twenty minutes.

The vast majority of hotel workers are women, immigrants and people of color, like Rahel Adugna. Adugna, an Ethiopian immigrant, got a union job at the Sheraton Hotel. However, she was laid off after three months. She felt that she was unjustly let go and spoke up and got her job back.

“I learned that even if you are in a union, you can still lose your rights,” she said at the rally. “I believe in the American dream…I want to take care of my family. I want to fight for our rights and dignity.”

Dina Dickinson is also a worker who has stood up for herself on the front lines. An immigrant from Italy, Dickinson has worked as a room attendant at the Logan Airport Hilton for 17 years. She is a single mother of five children, whom she is proud to say she put all through college. She is an executive board member and a shop steward at her hotel. As shop steward, Dickinson led a successful campaign to reduce the room quotas for room attendants from 16 to 15 rooms at the Hilton.

“I would like to retire, but there is no retirement plan,” she said. ‘We should be able to retire after years of service…We can’t have a society where people work hard and don’t make progress.”

The ongoing theme at the rally was the take over of corporations in the global economy. Up until twenty years ago small companies owned most hotels. Today most hotels are run by the so-called “Big 3” – Hilton, Starwood and Marriott – which employ thousands of non-union workers. Critics say that because the three corporates exhort so much power in the industry, they are taking advantage of hotel workers and thus contributing to the growing number of Americans living below the poverty line. Today eighty percent of jobs in the US and Canada are in the service sector. Fifty percent of those low-paying jobs are in hotels and restaurants.

Senator John Edwards ran his 2004 presidential campaign on the message of “Two Americas,” one for the rich and the other for the working poor. Edwards said that the national minimum wage should be raised so it would be easier for the working poor to cross into the middle class.

“Over the next decade there will be more jobs created,” he said. Will these jobs have benefits? Will we strengthen the middle class? Or will more people join the 37 million living in poverty. We will give these hotels the opportunity to do what’s right. If they don’t do it, we will make them do it.”
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Danny Glover, Sen John Edwards rally with hotel activists for workers' rights
johnedwardsandunionworkerslowerres.jpg
Danny Glover, Sen John Edwards rally with hotel activists for workers' rights
See also:
http://www.hotelworkersrising.org

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Re: Danny Glover, Sen John Edwards rally with hotel activists for workers' rights
20 Feb 2006
You mean Senator Edwards who is an avowed Capitalist and a member of the Establishment? You mean the same Senator Edwards who was running mate to Al Gore, the millionaire, the capitalist and member of the establishment and southern elite great grandson of slave owners?
Re: Danny Glover, Sen John Edwards rally with hotel activists for workers' rights
21 Feb 2006
No, Senator Edwards who was the runnint mate of John Kerry. The politicians love to play union guys until they get in office.
Re: Danny Glover, Sen John Edwards rally with hotel activists for workers' rights
21 Feb 2006
Sid - you shouldn't speak if you don't know anything. As if he is the one person in this country who isn't the great grandson/daughter of slave owners. Edwards ran with Kerry, not Gore. Get your politics straight.
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