San Diego Nine go on Hunger Strike.

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April 5, 2013. (San Diego)—Today nine San Diego Workers went on a five day hunger strike. These San Diego Workers, are protesting what Lorena Gonzalez of the Central Labor Council calls “union busting practices.”


This is not the first time something like this happens when workers try to organize. Last year over a thousand Janitors attempted to organize in San Diego, and the company they worked for suddenly discovered E-Verify. This is the same at the Hilton in Mission Valley. This is not being done by the hotel to check on the migratory status of workers, but as a tool to suppress the efforts of workers to organize.


In her view E-Verify is used “as a weapon to intimidate workers.”


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One of these striking workers is Virginia Martinez. Martinez told the media gaggle that came for the presser that she had “ten years working in this country. I love this country. With this job I’ve sent three daughters to University, and maintain my elderly mother. I was told that as of April 9, I am out of the team.” She added, “we are the workers who do the heavy work.”

Later Martinez told me that she is a housekeeper. The hotel wants her to clean sixteen rooms in eight hours. That is one room every half hour. This means making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, sweeping and vacuuming.” “They want one person to do the job of two or three people.”


She also told me that Local 30 of Unite Here is supporting the strikers. In fact, a few of the Strikers were from Unite Here.


She was also glad to see that “The Central Labor Council is supporting us, as well as politicians, who understand our suffering.”


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When San Diego School Member Richard Barrera came to the microphone he told the Press Gaggle that at times companies do what they do in the shadows. “this comes into the light in our communities.” He added, that the kids have been on Spring Break and they are coming back to school on Monday. Some of them, “will come back to school after their parents lose their jobs. This disrupts our classrooms.”


According to Barrera the San Diego Unified School District serves one hundred thirty thousand children. “We don’t check who is documented or not, but two thirds live under the poverty line. Their parents are working low wage jobs.”


He also said that “the number one factor to success in school is poverty.” Moreover, the Title One programs, used by the school district to teach these kids are being cut due to the Sequester to the tune of four million dollars. They are also losing Head Start Funds, and will not be able to fund one hundred slots.


Due to poverty, the School District is also seeing low level malnutrition. Two thirds of the students qualify for the Enhanced Lunch Program. This means that these kids qualify for both breakfast and lunch. This also means that on Fridays, those children have had the last good meal they will see, and by Monday they are very hungry since they have struggled all weekend. When they return from Spring Break, many of those kids have really struggled.


Some of them will be the children of the employees who have been threatened with dismissal by the Hilton. “If people care of the quality of the schools in San Diego, they need to care about poverty and the parents of those kids.”


These children also qualify for Cal Fresh and Medical. For many of them, their primary health care provider is the school nurse. And as counterintuitive as it might seem, “obesity is a result of malnutrition.”


Barrera is joining the Strikers for the first twenty four hours.


Laura Garcia, the daughter of a couple Hotel Workers, her mother is a Housekeepr and her father is a Houseman, said that she was a US Citizen, her father has a greencard and her mother was born in Los Angeles. They are not in danger of losing their jobs. But as Gonzalez pointed earlier in the rally, E-Verify is full of pitfalls and a clerical error can lead to a mismatch. “The IRS gives people seven business days to fix it.”


Alma Romero, an Organizer with Unite Here, told me “They are hiring at personnel agencies women who are here illegally.” She added, “they are trying to wash their hands free, and this is an injustice.”


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San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria also came to show his support. As he said, “the City stands with these workers. The tactics used here do not match with the slogan of San Diego, America’s Finest City.”


He told the crowd, “my mother was a hotel worker.” He reminded them that workers have a right to organize, and “the last thing they need is retaliation.”


He added that this took great strength, and that certainly we can do better than that.


The workers also have the support of The Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, as they have throughout this year of struggle. Reverend Beth Johnson is joining them in the five-day strike. She said “Hotel Management (after a new change of ownership that happened this year), agreed to hire all the workers. Then they ran the E-Verify as a tool.


Reverend Johnson reminded the crowd “an injury to one is an injury to all.” She closed with a prayer.


Finally, Lario, an older worker, said that he has been working at this hotel for twenty years. He said that with “every new change of ownership things get worst.” They pressure the workers to do more work, “hurry, hurry, the only thing needed is the whip, used with the mule.”


He said that the managers are dirty. They do dirty things to workers. He is a retired citizen, so they don’t give him much work, but as he put it. “I still have a right to make some money.” He is here to support his comrades.” 

Categories: labor, poverty

7 replies

  1. U.S. law requires companies to employ only individuals who may legally work in the United States. How is it wrong for the Hilton to fire employees that are here illegally?

    • First off, this is not the Hilton but a company that manages the property.

      Secondly, they used the E-Verify only after the workers organized.

      Third, E-Verify has one very serious flaw, due to a clerical error, you too could come back as not able to work in the United States. Yes, that means you. The IRS gives workers, American, or green card holders, seven business days to fix it. It takes on average six months, and this is before the Sequeter hit.

      Fourth, the company is using a contractor to supply some of the housekeeping staff. You know what, many of those workers do lack documentation. This is a tool used to keep people afraid and all that. Stay tuned because the background to the strike will be up.

      Remember what Lorena Gonzalez said. We had a group of a 100 janitors that were subjected to E-Verify last year only after they started to organize. E-Verify, is not really mandatory, and it has been used as a tool of intimidation.

      Regardless, with immigration reform, many of these games will be over… and they need to.

      • Whoever owns the hotel has a legal obligation to only hire workers that are legal residents, or that have the necessary documentation to work in the U.S.

        If E-Verify returns incorrect information, it would be a very simple matter to prove the information is incorrect, it sounds like the people you are referring to are, in fact, illegal.

        • It is not a simple matter, nor are they undocumented worker, nor are employers nationally using e-verify on a regular basis with low wage workers.

          You might believe it’s a simple matter, but it is not. It is on purpose difficult.

          And they have undocumented workers, hired through an agency, who take the abuse, and will not organize, because of la migra. These are people who have served, and built the hotel, in a few cases from the original local San Diego owner fot 20+ years. They have gone through now three ownership changes, and the last two have made working conditions very difficult. So they start to organize, and now we are where we are.

          It is so easy to fix, as you claim, that we have political leaders calling it what it is, a tool of represion. It is used as a tool of union busting in the low wage economy regularly. You might have heard of a food worker strike in New York City, I am betting they are about to use it. How dare workers organize.

          Hopefully Federal Legislation, there is consensus for Immigration reform, will end these games.

          For the record, this is just one of the games.

  2. For the record, employers are supposed to fill the I-98 immigration form, a result of the Amnesty under Reagan. This form requires the employee to show right to work using two documents such as a social security card, and a passport.

    This for was updated, as it is regularly, and now it is a two page form. If you are an employer, you’re supposed to keep this for years, even after the employee leaves. That is the extent of the requirement. E-verify is not required.

    • I don’t have any problem at all with workers organizing, I think it is a good thing. I do have a problem with people who are in the country without documentation getting hired. If the hotel is using a contractor that hires illegal labor, they should be busted.

      The rest of the anecdotal complaints seem to be the standard whining that you hear from any low paid employee.

      • There is a saying that applies here, when you hear water, the river is full.

        As to complaints. You are telling me that they do not have benefits and this is anecdotal? Regardless, you and I are paying for this one way or the other, in the form of Emergency Room visits. lower performance due to hunger, and lower performance in school due to hunger as well.

        Poverty is not just anecdotal, it is very real. It is rising, and not where you think it is, but in the suburbs. We can chose to ignore poverty and low wage workers, or we can raise the base of salaries, to a living wage. Deimos had a fascinating study I recommend you read. It gives Wallmart as an example, It would cost them 1 Billion to raise base pay for all workers, to at least $15.00\hour, and I might add full time work.

        Yes, 1B is a lot of money. You know how much they are expected to spend back int the company? 7-9 Billion dollars, that is the estimate. It is a good business decision to have a well paid workforce, in an economy that relies on consumption, such as hours. But we simply do not do it for ideology reasons that go back quite a few years, like the Colonial Period There is this mistaken believe that the low wage workers would not know what to do with better pay and instead spend it in gambling and drink. It is ideology.

        There is more, having these low wages depresses all wages, that includes yours and mine.

        As to immigration reform, there is pretty much consensus that we need it and it will happen. So a lot of this bullshit will essentially go away and the fear of La Migra will go as well. As an immigrant who came with a green-card and is now a citizen of the US, and played by the rules, I have no issue with workers having to go to the end of the line. You are talking of 20+ years. They are already paying taxes, and putting into OUR Social Security System. And if you can show me, and this is real from US History, any who will do that work for minimum wage… traditionally it has been the immigrant who does, whether it is the Irish, the Italian, the Jews from Eastern Europe, or the Latinos.

        By the way, this is a heated issue potentially, so thank you for a civilized discussion.

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